Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
"High on the slopes of rocky Mount Eskel, Miri's family pounds a living from the stone of the mountain itself. But Miri's life will change forever when word comes that her small village is the home of the future princess. All eligible girls must attend a makeshift academy to prepare for royal life. At the school, Miri finds herself confronting bitter competition among the girls and her own conflicted desires to be chosen. Yet when danger comes to the academy, it is Miri, named for a tiny mountain flower, who must find a way to save her classmates--and the future of their beloved village."
My sister is always complaining that because my boys are oldest, I don't have enough good middle grade/YA book ideas for girls. I try to keep up with my boys, and so I haven't really read any good books in that age group for girls. Well, this review is just for her! I read it with my book group this month, and I am pretty sure we all enjoyed it. This book is well written. It's easy to read and understand, the character development is really good, there are some fun surprises along the way, and I thoroughly enjoyed Ms. Hale's writing style. What girl doesn't dream of being a princess someday? This academy will give one lucky girl just that chance. I loved the individual personalities of the girls. It definitely took me back to my school days. The characters reminded me so much of my friends growing up. There are some that are extremely competitive, some that are loud, some that are timid, some that are angry no matter what, some are very studious, and some are always getting into trouble. I did not like Olana at all. She was the teacher at the academy, and she wasn't very nice. Miri drove me crazy at times, but at other times she was so strong and brave and courageous. She is a great character for these girls to be reading about because she has a lot of good, strong qualities. She has her moments, as do we all, but she is smart, fun, a little mischievous, courageous, and a good friend. I loved it when she took the information back to her village! There is some drama with other girls, but it's not the main story. There is a scene that is tense and may bring out the nail-biting, but it's not overly dramatic. It adds a different dimension to the story and spices things up a bit. I also loved the quarry-speech. It's very clever, and I loved how Miri studied, tried, learned, experimented, and ended up including all the girls. The ending is a bit of a surprise, and there are some fun moments. I really enjoyed this book!
I loved especially that this book is clean! There is no profanity, no "intimacy," except for maybe a small kiss, and although there is a little bit of violence, it isn't gory or graphic. Nothing inappropriate happens. (Yay! Thank you!!!) It is great for fifth and sixth grade girls for sure. The fourth grade girls may be a little young, so I would recommend that the parents read it to make sure it is ok for their daughter.
Rating: PG (Some very minor violence, and maybe a tiny peck of a kiss.)
Recommendation: Fourth Grade Girlies and up (If your daughter is in fourth grade then I recommend that you read it first to make sure you feel it is ok for her. If you have a daughter in fifth grade or above then she should be fine reading this book.)