The Princesses of Iowa by M. Molly Backes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Solid 3.5 stars!
I’ve been sitting on writing this review for a little while, though I’m not entirely sure why. I think it’s because I’m struggling with what to say about this book. Did I like it… sure. Did I love it… no. In fact, when we talked about this book in the bookclub that I read it for, I stated that I hated just about every single character in this book. Yet, still… The story was engaging and made you want to read more.
Paige Sheridan lives the perfect life… she’s popular and rich and she’s been groomed to become a ‘princess’ her whole life. After a night of bad choices and partying that ends in an accident, she’s shipped off to Paris for the summer, leaving her friends and family to assume she’s had a glamorous time. In fact, it wasn’t. Upon her return things are awkward. Her best friend no longer talks to her unless she has to, and her boyfriend seems to be spending more time with her ex BF than her.
Throwing herself headfirst into her creative writing class, and at his urging he pushes her to try and find herself… not who she was brought up to be.
So… the accident is the catalyst for change for these characters. Only Lacey, Paige’s best friend, was seriously injured but the accident seems to have caused a rift among the best friends.
One thing I will say is that this book tackles A LOT of topics. Homophobia, drinking and driving, cheating, prejudice, date rape, inattentive parents. To be honest, I’m not sure if I liked that all this was thrown in here or not. While reading, it did feel like it was all a bit much, but nothing was added gratuitously and the story flows really well, even with all that crammed in there.
Like I said earlier, I hated almost all the characters here. The lone bright spots for me were Shanti and Ethan and even Mr. Tremont.
While all those topics up there are pretty heavy for a single book, the book doesn’t get overly heavy in tone. Yes, there are some serious and angsty parts, but overall it was a quick and somewhat light read for me. This is a story about finding yourself, and making your own path and ultimately realizing that who you are when you’re in your teens, most likely isn’t who you’re going to end up being.
If you’re looking for a contemporary with a bit of romance and drama than I think The Princess of Iowa might be just what you’re looking for.
First let me say that the cover on this book is gorgeous….and a little creepy but mostly gorgeous. When I first saw it I hoped that the story would draw me in just as much and it truly did. This is a fresh idea and the story kept me turning the pages to see what happens.
Elizabeth doesn’t feel any emotions instead she can see them. When others are feeling courage, fear, guilt, etc., they appear but nothing appears to affect her – except for Fear. He is intrigued by Elizabeth and although he doesn’t really understand it himself, he is determined to find out what is going on with her. Both Elizabeth and Fear believe that her story begins with an accident she was in when she was 4 and are linked to the dreams she constantly has.
Elizabeth’s life isn’t easy. She has grown up on a farm in Wisconsin and ever since her accident, her family has felt she was different. Her mother (Sarah) has withdrawn from her over the years and her father (Tim) is abusive and drinks. Her brother (Charles) is the only one who makes a bit of an effort to engage with her but unfortunately he isn’t around very often. On top of this, she is somewhat of an outcast at school. Her only friend, Maggie, has cancer and isn’t ever in school and the only other person who is interested in her in a good way is Josh.
The story is about more than just Elizabeth’s relationships. She is trying to figure out why she is different from everyone as well as what this dream she continues to have means. As the story progresses, we see how the memories are slowly coming to the surface and ultimately what it means to Elizabeth.
The characters help make this an engaging story – Elizabeth, Fear, and Josh were great. I didn’t get the purpose of Sophia – other than to play the “mean girl” and be antagonistic. A lot of her story could probably be lifted out and it wouldn’t really bother me or interrupt the story at all.
Throughout the entire book I just wanted to give Josh a hug. He became the catalyst to Elizabeth remembering everything and I liked how it was done. He is much tougher than I expected but at the same time, he is still somewhat sensitive. I liked how Elizabeth was able to see each of the emotions triggered when he interacted with her…I also liked how she didn’t take advantage of the fact that she knew exactly what he was feeling and use it to her advantage in any way. It was clear he also didn’t have an easy life and he definitely felt a connection with Elizabeth. I was glad he didn’t give up on her.
Fear…what can I say. He was by far my favorite. He was antagonistic, protective, and forced Elizabeth to see what she didn’t really want to see. The first time he intervened with Tim…it was perfect. Their story (Fear and Elizabeth) is pretty complex but I was happy with the way the book ended.
Overall, this was a great debut novel by Sutton. She takes this story of a girl trying to figure out who she is and folds in a fresh idea. The characters are well developed and the story is engaging.
Thank you to Netgalley for providing the ARC in exchange for a review.