Princess Academy: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Princess Academy by Shannon HaleFourteen-year-old Miri wants a lot of things. She wants to be useful to her family. She wants to be taller and stronger. She wants desperately to work in the quarry and understand quarry speak the way everyone else on Mount Eskel does.

What Miri doesn’t want is to be a princess. At least, she doesn’t think she does.

There isn’t much room on Mount Eskel for princesses anyway. The mountain landscape is as beautiful as the linder stone the villagers mine for their livelihood but life there is hard. Lowland traders come to buy the mined linder, but it’s barely enough to secure food for the winter.

Be that as it may, the lowlander priests of the creator god read the omens and divined that Mount Eskel is the home of the Danland Prince’s future bride.

An academy is quickly established for the eligible girls to learn to be proper princesses. At the academy the girls will learn the finer points of commerce, politics, negotiation and the art of conversation. Poise, dancing, and etiquette will also be on the table among other things.

None of which interests Miri one bit. She doesn’t want to be a princess. She wants to stay on Mount Eskel with her family. Except . . . Wouldn’t she prove how valuable she really is if she becomes princess?

It doesn’t take long for the other girls to have similar thoughts and competition soon becomes fierce. Miri is determined to prove herself but it might not take a tiara and a fine gown to do that, it might take a little thing called pluck in Princess Academy (2005) by Shannon Hale–a Newbery Honor book in 2006.

Despite what the title might suggest, Princess Academy is anything but girly. Miri and her friends are some of the toughest, most resilient characters around. The academy itself is also more than comportment and pretty dresses. There are arguments, bandits, and a very scary and very dark closet. No one said it would be easy becoming a princess.

Princess Academy is an honest, often funny book about learning that it takes more than physical strength to make a person strong. Miri is a real girl struggling to make sense of what it means to be a young woman instead of a girl while trying to make sense of what it might mean to be a princess. It is delightful to watch Miri’s world open up as she realizes there can be more to her life than Mount Eskel and see what this smart, brave character does with that knowledge.

Hale’s writing is snappy and engaging. Miri’s internal struggle with her desire to be a princess and her ties to Mount Eskel feel so real that most readers will not be able to guess  Miri’s true desires until the very end (let alone which girl will become the princess!).

Possible Pairings: Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken, Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, Journey Across the Hidden Islands by Sarah Beth Durst, Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George, Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix, The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy, Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay, Enchanted by Alethea Kontis, Soundless by Richelle Mead, Kiki Strike by Kirsten Miller, Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan, The Accidental Highwayman by Ben Tripp, A Well-Timed Enchantment by Vivian Vande Velde, Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede

Some links, some promotions, some reminders

Whoo! Lots of stuff has been going on while I have been away from by RSS feeds and lots of reviews are getting written (I am already schedule posts for May . . . May!).

So, in convenient bulleted list form, here are some things I would like to share:

  • My “Finding the ‘Good’ Parents” in YA challenge is continuing until May. Please consider sharing your thoughts on the crazy article that started it all, making your own, and sharing the link to get other people involved.
  • Some of you might know about a blog called Fuse 8. If you read this post, you might also notice a mention of another familiar blog. (Hint: It’s this one. A special thanks to new commenter David Z for pointing this out to me. It is likely I would have missed it without the heads up because my bloglines account was out of control.)
  • I’ve shifted all of my blog type reading to Bloglines. I don’t know what works for you, but if you’re looking for a new feed reader, this one has kind of changed my life in a really good way. Just saying.
  • My good friend and fellow library school student, The Book Bandit has started a new book blog that might be worth your reading time.
  • I also recently discovered two new tumblrs that are ridiculous but surprisingly deep. (Okay, not really, but they are a lot of fun.) If you like Michael Buble and appreciate and fear Velociraptors, why not look at pictures of the two? It’s kind of like Where’s Waldo but with claws. Also, Hot Guys Read Books, who knew? (I feel like everyone knew about both of these but didn’t tell me.)
  • Finally, the current blog stats of this right now are 32,097. That is 64.2% of the way to 50,000 hits! Or 35.8% away from a really big giveaway! (Some of the books I have to give away include Our Lady of Immaculate Deception, Princess Pigtoria and the Pea, Hearts at Stake, and Goth Girl Rising.) Dear readers, you rock!