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Prep: A Novel by Curtis Sittenfeld

Prep: A Novel (original 2005; edition 2005)

by Curtis Sittenfeld

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4,3781371,126 (3.56)131
Title:Prep: A Novel
Authors:Curtis Sittenfeld
Info:Random House Trade Paperbacks (2005), Paperback, 448 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld (2005)

  1. 30
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    BookshelfMonstrosity: Although Prep is realistic fiction written for adults and Conversion is a YA mashup of suspense and historical fiction, both books detail the complex social interactions of elite Northeastern prep schools with intense, sometimes gut-wrenching, precision.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 130 (next | show all)
This wasn't at all the bright, bouncy beach read I had expected it to be (or frankly, that I thought was promised by the pink-and-green Lilly Pulitzer-esque belt on the cover). It was actually a somewhat dark and fraught coming-of-age tale. I enjoyed it enough to check out what other books the author (who is female, despite the name's appearance the contrary) has written.

In short, a surprisingly good read. ( )
  BraveNewBks | Mar 10, 2016 |
Narrated by Julie Dretzin. Covers the four years that Lee Fiora attends Ault School in Massachusetts on scholarship. She feels like an outsider at the boarding school among her wealthy and more beautiful classmates. Eventually she finds some sort of comfort level: she finds a good friend in Martha and for a while is known for her haircutting skills. In her senior year, she becomes involved in a secret sexual affair with Cross, a popular boy in her class and a longtime crush. Still, Lee feels her position at Ault is emotionally and socially precarious. The scale is tipped when her critical quotes are the focus of a NYT article about boarding school. Her fear of ostracism comes full circle.
  Salsabrarian | Feb 2, 2016 |
Prep is the story of Lee Fiora a young girl from Indiana who was convinced that her life would be somehow improved by attending boarding school. At the age of 13 she fills out all the applications and gets accepted into Ault along with a scholarship to pay most of the tuition. But Ault is not at all what she expected. What follows is the typical tale of teenage angst.

I read this book for a book club and I'm still not sure what I think about it. One the one hand I'm not sure where the book was going. It didn't feel like it really had a point and just rambled through Lee's life. But at the same time I also felt like I really understood all that she was going through. The college I went to shared many qualities with Ault and I was, in many ways, Lee. My emotions weren't as dramatic, but that may only be the difference of age.

I had a hard time rating this book because of my conflicting emotions. It's ability to make me think and reflect on my own life deserves more than the three stars I gave it. But in the end the fact that as I was reading it, I couldn't figure out what the book was actually about dragged my rating down. ( )
  Mootastic1 | Jan 15, 2016 |
This book fascinated me, and I have a feeling it will stay with me for a while. The word I keep thinking of to describe it is heart-wrenching, but that seems silly for a book about teen angst. Whatever the actual word may be, I felt her awkwardness and pain. ( )
  melaniefaith | Dec 2, 2015 |
Rarely have I disliked a novel with such violence. I think the main reason for this was disappointment. I often read books that I know I'm going to hate (e.g. anything by Stephenie Meyer or Emily Giffin), and I know I'm going to hate them because their themes get my back up. Sometimes it's good to hate. With 'Prep' though, I was expecting to fall in love. Give me teenagers at boarding school, especially when the main character is the outsider, and I'm won over. 'Friendly fire', 'Harry Potter', 'The catcher in the rye' are just a few of the books that have a special place in my heart thanks to their treatment of the 'teen in institutionalised education' theme.

So I read the blurb at the back of 'Prep' and thought, 'I'm going to love this, or at the very least enjoy it'. Sadly it wasn't to be. A hundred pages in I realised I was not enjoying that book at all and that on the contrary it was infuriating me. I kept going, hoping it would get better but it just got worse. When I finally finished it I would happily have ripped it in two, except I don't do that to books. Blame it on my librarian training.

What do I pin the blame on? Or where do I start? I don't know, probably with Lee herself. It takes magnificent skill from a writer to make you follow an unlikeable narrator/main character with interest. Daphne du Maurier does a superb job of it 'My cousin Rachel', and Alan Hollinghurst truly impressed me with Nick in 'The line of beauty'. Although not a narrator, Nick is the perspective we have to go with in that novel, and I think his example is relevant here as like Lee he is the odd one out trying (and failing) to carve his place in a social class way above his own. Well, clearly Curtis Sittenfeld is no Hollinghurst, not even a little bit. A little bit would have been better than what she gave us with Lee.

Lee has nothing to say, yet she manages to fill more than 400 pages with thorough explorations of her uninteresting navel. NOTHING ELSE HAPPENS. She is cold, selfish, unappreciative, self-obsessed, SO FUCKING SHALLOW. There is literaly nothing to her. She might go unnoticed but what is there to notice? All she talks about is herself and how others affect her/how she appears to others, it's her her her all the time. If at least there were a few interesting observations, descriptions of what she likes... But it seems all she can talk about is nothing, a whole lot of nothing. I was hoping that at some point there would be some mention of what she's studying and how she finds her subjects, how she sees her life evolving from school, but the only thing she seems to care about is how she looks to others, what they think of her and how she can be popular. She is such a nasty jealous person as well, horrible to her family and to the friends who inexplicably stick with her... I found it exhausting and infuriating. The only moment I felt any satisfaction was when her father slapped her.

The style sank this sorry mess even further in my opinion. A good writer would have made the reader see Lee exactly for what she is but still want to read about her. If anything Sittenfeld's style seriously put me off. Any attempts at depth fell flat - for example the bit where Lee is reprimanded by her English teacher for not showing enough passion and she thinks to herself that she feels everything too intensely. Well, sorry Curtis but none of that intensity actually reached the page. Lee's existential musings never sounded genuine or insightful, just self-involved, petty and narrow. The succession of cliches sometimes made my jaw hang open in disbelief. The one that stays with me is the bit about Sin-Jun being an obvious lesbian because she has short hair and ear piercings. Seriously? We're still there, are we? Sorry, I thought this was the 21st century. My mistake. There were plenty more cliches too, it wasn't an isolated incident. There's no excuse for that when you're trying to be all literary and deep. Speaking of, the literary devices in there were so heavy and clunky I cringed. The amount of 'in fact' used to no effect, the endless questions of 'am I like this?', 'is this that?', 'why this?' became so tiresome I wanted to scream, the fact that every single time there seemed to be something happening the narrative cut to another pointless anecdote or flashback or musing frustrated me no end...

The best thing about this book? It ended. I won't be reading any of Curtis Sittenfeld's other novels.
(cross-posted to Goodreads) ( )
  anna_battista | Nov 7, 2015 |
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For my parents, Paul and Betsy Sittenfeld;
my sisters, Tiernan and Josephine;
and my brother, P.G.
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I think that everything, or at least the part of everything that happened to me, started with the Roman architecture mix-up.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 081297235X, Paperback)

Curtis Sittenfeld's poignant and occassionally angst-ridden debut novel Prep is the story of Lee Fiora, a South Bend, Indiana, teenager who wins a scholarship to the prestigious Ault school, an East Coast institution where "money was everywhere on campus, but it was usually invisible." As we follow Lee through boarding school, we witness firsthand the triumphs and tragedies that shape our heroine's coming-of-age. Yet while Sittenfeld may be a skilled storyteller, her real gift lies in her ability to expertly give voice to what is often described as the most alienating period in a young person's life: high school.

True to its genre, Prep is filled with boarding school stereotypes--from the alienated gay student to the picture perfect blond girl; the achingly earnest first-year English teacher and the dreamy star basketball player who never mentions the fact that he's Jewish. Lee's status as an outsider is further affirmed after her parents drive 18 hours in their beat-up Datsun to attend Parent's Weekend, where most of the kids "got trashed and ended up skinny-dipping in the indoor pool" at their parents' fancy hotel. Yet even as the weekend deteriorates into disaster and ends with a heartbreaking slap across the face, Sittenfeld never blames or excuses anyone; rather, she simply incorporates the experience into Lee's sense of self. ("How was I supposed to understand, when I applied at the age of thirteen, that you have your whole life to leave your family?")

By the time Lee graduates from Ault, some readers may tire of her constant worrying and self-doubting obsessions. However, every time we feel close to giving up on her, Sittenfeld reels us back in and makes us root for Lee. In doing so, perhaps we are rooting for every high school student who's ever wanted nothing more than to belong. --Gisele Toueg

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:07 -0400)

In the late 1980s, for reasons even she has difficulty pinpointing, fourteen-year-old Lee Fiora leaves her middle-class, close-knit, ribald family in Indiana and enrolls at Ault, an elite co-ed boarding school in Massachusetts. Both intimidated and fascinated by her classmates, Lee becomes a shrewd observer of, and ultimately a participant in, their rituals and mores, although, as a scholarship student, she constantly feels like an outsider. By the time she's a senior, Lee has found her place at Ault. But when her behavior takes a self-destructive and highly public turn, her hard-won identity within the community is shattered. Lee's experiences, complicated relationships with teachers, intense and sometimes rancorous friendships with other girls, an all-consuming preoccupation with a classmate who is less than a boyfriend and more than a crush, are both a psychologically astute portrait of one girl's coming-of-age and an embodiment of the painful and thrilling adolescence universal to us all.… (more)

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