Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld
“Lee Fiora is a shy fourteen-year-old when she leaves small town Indiana for a scholarship at Ault, an exclusive boarding school in Massachusetts. Her head is filled with images from the school brochure of handsome boys in sweaters leaning against old brick buildings, girls running with lacrosse sticks across pristine athletic fields, everyone singing hymns in chapel. But, as she soon learns, Ault is a minefield of unstated rules and incomprehensible social rituals, and Lee must work hard to find – and maintain – her place in the pecking order.”
————-BEWARE FOR MINOR SPOILERS——————-
Writer: Curtis Sittenfeld
Time it took me to read: Dec 4th – Dec 10th
Prep is an impressive, insightful story about the development of Lee Fiora, a small town girl who makes the decision to apply to a high-end boarding school. The story describes how she adapts to her new surroundings and social situations. Being a scholarship student puts Lee in a difficult position, never really connecting with those around her.
I have a love/hate relationship with this book. When I first started reading the book, I loved it. I identified with Lee so much, it was like I was reading a story about myself. The only difference being that I never went to boarding school. This feeling was most profound when I read the following sentence: “I always worried someone would notice me, and then when no one did, I felt lonely.” When Lee first arrives at Ault, she is an insecure 14-year old with no idea how to interact with the students at Ault who almost all come from a privileged background. This was the part of the book I liked the most, her initial insecurity and uncertainty about the world around her. Wanting to blend in and to have friends but also wanting to be left alone. Because of this I was truly happy for her in those moments when she did finally seemed to fit in, when she found a friend or hit it off with a guy. However, this didn’t stay this way.
As the book progressed I started to like Lee less and less. Because I first identified so strongly with Lee, I felt disappointed about some of the choices that she made during the course of the book. Although it started with innocent insecurity, it soon turned into deliberate isolation. She is often not nice to the people who are trying to be friends with her. Even more so, she throws them away when something better comes along. Among the people who she alienates are her parents. Although Lee feels she doesn’t fit in at Ault, she has also outgrown the small town she came from. I almost get a feeling that she feels above both places, treating both very badly. Not only is she not very friendly to those around her but she’s also not nice to herself. Convinced that she would never fit in and that she never would make it at Ault, she gives up. When she does this, she forces someone close to her in a difficult position when they pick up her slack.
My disappointment with Lee grew to full out dislike in the last chapter of the book. Her obsession with the school hunk, Cross Sugerman, grows out of proportion. Thinking that she’s finally getting what she’s longed for, for so long, Lee puts herself in an position which can only be described as demeaning. Then, at the end of the book Lee does something that is so naive that I wanted to close the book forever. In the end she even throws away the person who has been there for her the most, because Lee felt resentful towards them for their success. Argh.
In conclusion: it’s a wonderfully frustrating story with a very insightful view of the psychological workings of an insecure girl in an intimidatingly new situation. This book will mostly speak to those who are interested in reading about a person’s development. If you’re looking for an exciting book with plot twists and page-turning scenes, this book is not for you. It’s a little too long, the story was dragged out some, but it was a good read in the end.