Despite the accolades, I kept putting off reading Princess Academy because it looked like a 'princess' book. I finally gave it a chance and I am so glad I did -- Princess Academy is charming and engaging. I was pulled into the book from the first page. I'll be picking up the next book without any hesitation.Miri rocks. She is bright, spunky, resourceful, and wonderfully real. I love when a MG protagonist has real doubts, fears, insecurities. Miri has enough depth and backstory to give the reader many opportunities to connect with her and root for her. Since the story takes place in a very small part of a bigger world (the whole story takes place within a few miles of a village on a remote mountain), worldbuilding was really important. The villager's culture (the children's songs and games, the customs around holding hands and dancing, the miri flowers) gives the world verisimilitude. The setting is vivid and Ms. Hale's writing evocative: "Winter kept falling from the sky, building up under the windowsills, and crawling with frost over the panes." My favorite part of the book is the mountain magic. It's not quite magic in the fantasy sense… but the connection the miners of Mount. Eskel have with their mountain and each other is magic-like.As I read the book, I was sure that I knew how the story would end. Boy was I wrong and in such a wonderful way -- Princess Academy has a fairy tale, happily-ever-after ending but with a delightful twist. Oh, and any book where studying economics plays a role in the story is awesome! This book would be a great read-aloud or assigned book as part of a civics or government unit.