When the priests declare that the prince's future wife will come from Miri's remote village in the mountains, all the eligible girls must learn how to be a princess at an academy that is created for them. With the harsh rules of the academy and the fierce competition between the girls, life there certainly isn't easy, but the chance of a lifetime is being offered, and Miri is determined to make the most of it.
What I really loved about Princess Academy was the fact that, while the whole plot revolves around learning how to be a princess to catch the eye of the prince, the focus isn't on romance. Instead, we see Miri using the knowledge she gains for practical purposes to improve life in the village for everyone. Her interest in the competition comes from a desire to help her family. And the story is ultimately about everyone working together to achieve their goals.
My only real complaint is with the ending.(show spoiler)
I still loved the book, but the ending did take away from that enjoyment.