Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
Genre: Juvenile Fiction
Age Group: 12 and Up
Summary: Princess Academy is a Newbery Honor Book about Miri, a mountain girl who is full of wit and imagination. She and the rest of the town get quite a shock when the chief delegate from the King comes and tells them that one of them is to become a Princess by marrying the Prince. In order to prepare them for this an academy is set up to educate them in everything from reading to history and commerce. The girls are reluctant at first especially when their teacher turns out to be quick to punish but through perseverance and hard work Miri and the other nineteen girls are able to straighten up their teacher, learn their subjects, meet the Prince, and come to truly appreciate the value of their mountain home. Only one girl can be chosen and at first that was a source of contention but in the end they were all friends and happy with the choice the Prince made for his future bride. Along the way the girls learn things about themselves and each other and forge not only friendships but also a new life for themselves and their families in the mountains.
Personal Notes: The best book I've read in a long time! The prose was beautiful and full of imagery and detail without losing my interest. Hale has a way of describing the scene while creating action that is just magical. The plot was fabulous with many different layers and subsets. The characters were complex and interesting without taking the light of the main character. The conflict was believable and real but new and interesting at the same time. I would definitely recommend it to anyone and everyone I know. It's not a usual princess story either, it has real meat to it and it is full of adventure.