Shannon Hale writes perfect fairytale-style modern fantasies. Every book reminds me of stories I read as a kid, but the level of storytelling sophistication and nuance in characterization holds up by today's standards.
The Goose Girl launches a classic, almost remote or detached-feeling princess story in the type of Euro-historic setting that so often feels tired and overdone, but in this case feels timeless and intuitive. You know the twists are coming, but follow the characters every step of the way. Rather than predictable, the plot feels archetypal.
The princess has a rich, nuanced internal life and faces challenges with realistically flawed reactions. Things get ugly, and it's not only the strength she grows through her trials that helps her, but the hard-won friendships she makes and discovers.
Beautiful, beautiful storytelling that I'd have happily read by age 8 or so. Some light romantic stuff (after all, she's a princess on her way to get married off), but none of the awkward deep-dives into teenaged hormones or explicit behind-closed-doors scenes that push some YA into the mature category. Can't recommend highly enough.