Princess Academy by Shannon Hale

Ages 12 and up

Well-written and engaging. Not a book you will find me raving (or ranting) about, but still, definitely worth the time it took to read it.

Fourteen-year-old Miri lives on Mount Eskel taking care of her family’s home and animals. But what she really wants is to work in the quarries with the majority of her village. She struggles with feelings of inadequacy and isolation, since her father has forbidden from ever working the linder block that provides her village’s sole source of income. Then the messengers arrive announcing that the prince’s bride will be chosen from among the girls at Mount Eskel. Which means that the kingdom will be setting up a school where all the eligible young maidens will learn how to be princesses.  Miri turns out to be good at learning the things the girls are taught (big surprise) and she starts learning more about her own heritage.

Shannon Hale creates a believable world. As is typical with books geared towards this age group, Miri doesn’t quite fit her mountain home and this book spends a good deal of time on her search for her place. Refereshingly, Miri is not an overtly rebellious teen who has the attitude that her father knows nothing. Her relationship with her dad is soured slightly by her doubts about her self worth, but even before that little misunderstanding gets cleared up, she and her father still have a loving relationship. She doesn’t always understand him, but when it comes down to it she obeys.

Anyways, it’s not your typical princess story. The fact that the main character has no royal blood is just the start. Predictable to point, it had me waffling between endings until about halfway through.  Hale weaves a trail to the end, with just enough detours to make you question you confidence in the expected outcome. There is an emphasis on communication and sticking with your friends despite peer pressure. It also has pitches in the anti-clique and accept the new girl themes.

Definitely a novel aimed at younger teen girls, but still worth the read for those who like this genre.

This is a good example of:

  • World building (without the annoying overload of details)
  • Retelling Fairytales
  • Tween and Teen Girl Fiction
  • Plot Structure