I was at Border's yesterday and they were having a book drive for the Alameda Boy's & Girl's Club. Out of the stack of books they had as suggestions for donations, The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley caught my eye -- I had to buy it for them, because I wanted to make sure those kids had the opportunity to read this fantastic book. I first read this book in the 8th grade, when a sympathetic teacher gave me a copy. Since then, this has continued to be one of my "comfort food" books -- a book I pick off the shelf and cuddle up with once a year.
Aerin, the book's heroine, is a familiar character -- the outsider in a crowd, the girl who doesn't fit in. (Yeah, its something a pre-teen girl could relate to.) Despite being the king's daughter, she is struggling to find her place in the kingdom. Instead of following the usual path a princess (or sola, in Damar) should take, Aerin follows her own course and becomes the hero the kingdom didn't know they needed. I highly recommend this book for young adult readers, whether they are young or not.
Buy The Hero and the Crown on Amazon.