cover image The Princesses of Iowa

The Princesses of Iowa

M. Molly Backes. Candlewick, $16.99 (464p) ISBN 978-0-7636-5312-5

Weightier than its title suggests, this well-executed first novel introduces three A-list high school seniors whose perfect lives are in disarray after a drunk-driving accident the previous spring, “After the first cracks that split into canyons between us, sending me spinning across the ocean, Nikki down the Crazy Diet Rabbit Hole, and Lacey into the Land of Crippled Martyrdom.” Narrator Paige is “exiled” to Paris to work as an au pair while her image-conscious mother does damage control. Upon Paige’s return, her friends are cold, distant, and resentful that she was able to escape for the summer. Although the girls put on a front of normalcy once school begins, underlying tensions threaten to undermine their relationship. With the help of a new writing teacher, Paige embarks on a painful but enlightening journey of self-awareness. The conflicts Paige faces and the changes she undergoes are powerfully evoked. Backes addresses guilt, deceit, homophobia, loyalty, and the burden of keeping up appearances in a brutally believable high school setting as Paige recognizes the weaknesses of loved ones and her own imperfections. Ages 14–up. Agent: Becca Stumpf, Prospect Agency. (May)