Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
A somewhat different kind of princess story. Miri, a young mountain girl, is dreaming about working at the quarry but is never allowed to do it. Life in the mountains is hard but family and friends make it all worth while. Miri's life and lives of other mountain girls suddenly changes: they are to enter a princess academy after which one of them would marry the prince and live in the lawlands, a very different, exciting life. Miri is not sure she'd like to be a princess, but would very much like to make her family's life easier.
At the academy, she makes new frindships and encounters stiff competition. However, using her determination Miri reaches the top of the class. But, before the next princess is chosen, the girls encounter a number of good and bad events, all great character builders and relationship testers.
This is an especially interesting story because it potrays richly imagined historical and geographic setting. The emotions of loyalty and betrayal and family and regional values are at the focus of this story. It also contains a well developed element of suspense and unexpected plot twists.
This book is a 2006 Newberry Honor Book.