I’m so excited that launch week for The Princesses of Iowa is finally here. I hope you’ll all pick up a copy of Deb Molly’s wonderful novel. For anyone (like, uh, ME) who has enjoyed her thoughtful posts and her wise insights into the writing life, the book is like that — times a milllion!
And now… the question!
Q: There are a lot of characters in this book, and some seem to be more complicated and layered than others. Lacey, specifically, doesn’t seem like much more than a mean girl. Was this intentional? Whereas so many other YA books give the mean-girl something to make us understand her in the end, Lacey is, more or less, tough throughout (with some deviation that I won’t give away here). I know everything that you write is so thoughtful, I’m curious as to why you made this decision.
A: The weird thing about writing in first person is that you’re limited to what that character knows and understands, which gets tricky when you have an unreliable narrator — for instance in The Sixth Sense, the audience is limited to the protagonist’s understanding of the world, and that understanding helps to shape the story itself and lends itself to the big reveal toward the end of the story. Many people, when discussing unreliable narrators, seem to mean narrators who are purposely manipulating the audience & the reader’s understanding of events by basically lying in their narrative, but I would actually argue that everyone is an unreliable narrator, because we’re all limited by our own biases, assumptions, and worldviews.
That said, I think Paige is perhaps more unreliable than most, because, frankly, she’s a very self-centered person and unused to thinking about anyone else. She’s not empathetic (though she slowly becomes slightly moreso over the course of the book) and she’s not that interested in spending the time to figure out what other people are thinking and feeling.
When it comes to Lacey, in addition to being self-centered, Paige is also feeling hurt, angry, and betrayed, which makes her not just self-centered but actively unwilling to consider what’s going on with Lacey. I think the more we care about someone — and the higher our expectations of them — the harsher we judge them when they fail to meet our expectations.
In short — yes, Lacey’s characterization was intentionally shallow because Paige herself wasn’t at a place where she could see Lacey as anything but a bitch. Lacey and Mrs. Sheridan suffer the most from Paige’s anger, but all of the characters are filtered through Paige’s particular worldview. I’d like to think that Paige will have learned to be a lot more empathetic and thoughtful by the time she gets to college….
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See what I mean? So thoughtful! I always learn so much from hearing Molly’s process. It’s almost as if she’s a writing teacher or something…
And leave it to me to ask about BFFs. Thanks for writing such a thought-provoking friendship Molly. Happy launch week!
And don’t forget! Deb Molly will be giving away a signed copy of THE PRINCESSES OF IOWA to one lucky commenter this week so be sure to leave your thoughts any day this week to be entered to win!