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Princess Academy, by Shannon Hale Book Review | SFReader.com
Princess Academy, by Shannon Hale Genre: YA Fantasy Publisher: Bloomsbury Published: 2005 Review Posted: 9/18/2006 Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: 9 out of 10
Princess Academy, by Shannon Hale
Book Review by S C Bryce
Have you read this book?
I would not normally read a book titled, Princess Academy, nor would I expect anyone past elementary school to do so. But I'd heard great things about Shannon Hale's Newbury Award winning Young Adult fantasy and I was curious enough to give it a shot.
The book surprised me.
Not because it was well-written. Hale has a critic and reader acclaimed style that's lyrical and relaxed. It's easy to read and satisfying, without being "dumbed down" for kids. It's a book of innocent pleasures and experiences. It is refreshing, for example, to read about the first stirrings of childhood romances -- trembling at holding of hands, stumbling beneath the gaze of the boy next door, and mumbling lame jokes to fill in awkward moments.
Nor was I surprised because of the plot. It begins as a typical Cinderella story centered on Miri, a misfit and runty girl who's convinced that everyone in her mountain village sees her as a misfit and runty girl. Along comes a royal messenger who notifies them that prophecy has seen that the next princess will come from their remote quarry-village. So embarrassing are their social graces that the girls are rounded up to be educated in the ways of courtly life before they meet the prince. Hence, the Princess Academy. At this point, the story gains an additional dimension: the Unjustly Punished Kids verses the Unjust Tutor, with a dash of peer bullying, a twist of adventure, and tons of vindication by the end.
What really surprised me about Princess Academy was its underlying politics. Miri's village is communistic and committed to gender, social, and economic equality. Yet, the villages are poor and uneducated, living in harsh and dangerous surroundings where children's dreams are limited to the glories of mining stone. They are exploited by capitalistic traders who pay the villagers a pittance for the linder stone that, back in the civilized lowlands, is worth a fortune.
When the girls first get to the Princess Academy, they rebel. Then they begin to dream -- not just about wearing fancy dresses and going to balls, but how being a princess could give them unprecedented power. They dream about improving the lives of their families and fellows. What they eventually realize is that the education they are receiving is useful not only in courtly life, but also in their own lives. With the discovery of reading, and in particular a book on economics, they realize a band of mountain girls can have a tremendous impact and create a socialist utopia. The prince becomes little more than an after-thought.
None of these political elements are preached in Princess Academy, although they are clear in the background of the otherwise straightforward, "coming of age" tale. There is also little magic in Princess Academy. The real magic is the connection between individuals, family, and homeland; the power is education.
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I really loved the book!! I never get tired of reading it. Best book ever!!! This may be my 37th time reading it and it still makes me laugh and smile. Wonderful story, with just the right amount of romance and adventure.
Posted by Samantha on 1/13/2010
This is one of my favorite books and I tell everyone to read it. I even read it to my twelve year old brother cos he was too ashamed to read a book called Princess Academy. And he loved it.
Posted by Adriana on 1/7/2010
I really liked this book... I wish there was a movie...
Posted by Stella on 1/3/2010
I think this book is amazing!!! Love, adventure and excitement
Posted by Anna on 11/29/2009
I loved this book. It was great and I wish that it was a movie!
Posted by katelynne on 10/18/2009
THIS IS ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS I HAVE EVER READ IT IS A MIXTURE OF A LOVE STORY AND A CLASSIC FAIRY TALE IF U HAVENT READ IT YOU REALLY SHOULD YOU WONT REGRET IT
Posted by M on 9/16/2009
Well written. It was a wonderful book. The only thing, though, is the title. Many people wouldn't read this book because they expect a book titled "Princess Academy" to be something like a fairy-tale Cinderella story. I loved it!
Posted by Rena on 5/7/2009
The title of this book turned me off at first, but after reading it with my daughter I have to say I loved it.
I loved that it was a book about empowerment without being overbearing. I loved that the romance fell by the wayside in the wake of more important things -- education. I loved that my daughter could relate to the characters and learn something from them without it being preachy and moralistic.
We enjoyed the book so much that we also read "Book of a Thousand Days" by Shannon Hale. This is also a well written, wonderful book.
Posted by Adrienne and Anna on 3/31/2009
We just adored this book! We will read it again and again and again!