The Princesses of Iowa

What does it mean to do wrong, when no one punishes you? A smart and unflinching look at friendship, the nature of entitlement, and growing up in the heartland.

Paige Sheridan has the perfect life. She’s pretty, rich, and popular, and her spot on the homecoming court is practically guaranteed. But when a night of partying ends in an it-could-have-been-so-much worse crash , everything changes. Her best friends start ignoring her, her boyfriend grows cold and distant, and her once-adoring younger sister now views her with contempt. The only bright spot is her creative writing class, led by a charismatic new teacher who encourages students to be true to themselves. But who is Paige, if not the homecoming princess everyone expects her to be? In this arresting and witty debut, a girl who was once high-school royalty must face a truth that money and status can’t fix, and choose between living the privileged life of a princess, or owning up to her mistakes and giving up everything she once held dear.

Praise for the Princesses of Iowa

“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. … 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.”

Publishers Weekly

“This intelligent novel highlights the consequences of high school peer pressure, jealousy, and prejudice. … It reads smoothly without the weight of melodrama, in spite of the serious storyline. Paige is a likeable, convincing protagonist who engenders sympathy. … Teens who enjoy realistic fiction that is not too edgy will like this believable novel.”


“(Gr 8 Up) Who is Paige Sheridan? Is she just a princess? Or is she something more? In this debut novel, Backes takes Dead Poets Society and brings it into the age of Mean Girls. Her writing style is witty while still being relatable, and the themes of acceptance and identity will ring true to teens. … Backes re-creates a world that most teens already live in, with the overarching message that anyone can become more than what others perceive them to be.”

— School Library Journal