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Prep: A Novel by Curtis Sittenfeld
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Prep: A Novel (original 2005; edition 2005)

by Curtis Sittenfeld

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4,2591301,164 (3.56)128
Member:laurelosterkamp
Title:Prep: A Novel
Authors:Curtis Sittenfeld
Info:Random House Trade Paperbacks (2005), Paperback, 448 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:None

Work details

Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld (2005)

  1. 30
    The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart (cataylor)
  2. 30
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  3. 20
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  4. 10
    Moo by Jane Smiley (sweetbug)
    sweetbug: Moo is also a coming of age novel, but it is set in a Midwestern college town at an ag school (hence the title). More humor and less drama than Prep, but a similar feel.
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  6. 10
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  7. 00
    Conversion by Katherine Howe (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    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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    veritas: Prep is a far more sophisticated novel in a lot of ways, but Crush evokes a very similar feeling.
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» See also 128 mentions

English (125)  Dutch (2)  Swedish (1)  German (1)  All languages (129)
Showing 1-5 of 125 (next | show all)
When I was a child I used to page through books at the library looking for narrators or heroines I thought were similar to me and was distressed that I never found them quite shy enough or fat enough or sufficiently self-loathing. Now I'm glad I didn't. Lee Fiora might be that narrator I was looking for--plain, unremarkable, silent, friendless--but if I had identified with her as a kid, I don't know whether I would have grown up.

In Prep, our heroine, a middle-class girl from Indiana, goes to an elite New England boarding school called Ault and faces the iniquities of high school--the clueless teachers, the super-hard algebra homework, the girls with long blonde hair, the cool kids, and the cool boy who fucks her in the middle of the night but doesn't talk to her during the day. At this school, the cool kids are cool and rich, and even most of the uncool kids are rich, and the minorities are rich, and Lee is, like, the only middle class person there. And she's not cool. She has a really bad time.

On one level it is just a gloomy story about a high-school girl, but Lee is such an unusual narrator that the book is unsettling in the way of nightmare dystopias and psychological thrillers. Lee narrates the story with a flat affect and simple language. There are several ways to experience this. Sometimes it seems like bad writing, sometimes a precise imitation of a real teenager, and sometimes the low, out of touch thoughts of a depressive adolescent on the way to psychopathic adulthood.

The novel is Lee's inner world, but only while she is at Ault. She herself suggests that she is a different person while there and that this other person disappears as soon as she leaves the campus to fly home. And though we get to know her thoughts and feelings very well, there are two details Sittenfeld leaves out: what she looks like and what she ends up doing after college.

While I was reading this I thought it must be a book meant for young adults. the flat tone, the uncomplicated language.
reflecting on it, though, I think this is a devastating story about a nobody. It could have been written by a russian. (but not Tolstoy because there's no redemption and not Dostoevsky because there is no morality)

Is ault, perhaps, hell? is martha her virgil?
is cross her beatrice/or paulo/or is she psyche and he eros?

she leaves her home and goes into an alternate reality
she wants to be a different person. she wants to exceed her station in life.
but unlike a greek tragedy, which would have her dying a poetically fitting death, she is just really unhappy

Her roommate says it. The most frustrating thing about Lee is she doesn't do anything to change her situation. I totally understand this. I was the same way. I have been and am the same way so often. But it's heartbreaking to see it in someone else. (and one so young! a la gigi)

Teachers tell her she's a value to the school. But why?? she never tells you anything good about herself. So you sort of have to believe that there are good things, hidden somewhere. Maybe she is lying when she says she never talks to anybody? Maybe she's a great teammate (they all have to play sports--every season--a sign that the place really may be hell). Maybe she's a joy in history class?

this is what it's like to be unremarkable....

as an adult she still sounds depressed. One of my favorite passages. at the basketball games

'sure maybe there are margaritas and no curfew. but there are also puffy white bagels under the fluorescent lights at the office...and blah blah blah" ( )
  millihelen | Jan 9, 2015 |
Wow! What a ride! I thought this was going to be your typical "boarding school" story but it went much deeper. I'm not sure I enjoyed it but it intrigued me intellectually. I'd be interested to read more by this author. ( )
  olegalCA | Dec 9, 2014 |
Wow! What a ride! I thought this was going to be your typical "boarding school" story but it went much deeper. I'm not sure I enjoyed it but it intrigued me intellectually. I'd be interested to read more by this author. ( )
  olegalCA | Dec 9, 2014 |
My views on this novel are extremely ambivalent. Ms. Sittenfeld is an excellent writer. Her prose is well-crafted, her characters are complex, and the conflict is gripping. The story of what transpired with her crush during Lee's senior year is painful to read. I can't say too much without a spoiler, but I was disappointed in the resolution.

The story gripped me in parts, but dragged a bit in others. Although I enjoyed the large cast of minor characters, I think a slightly tighter edit would have helped keep the tension that was built around Lee's relationships with her peers, and her conflict with her parents and the private school where she struggles to find her place.

( )
  CathrynGrant | Nov 20, 2014 |
Sittenfeld, Curtis
Prep: A Novel
2005. 448 pp. $12.99 pb. Random House. 081297235X. Grades 9 and up.

Tags: novel, fiction, coming of age, teenager, boarding school, high school, young adult, prep school, relationships, friendship, self-doubt, loneliness, insecurities, social status

This coming of age novel will resonate with any current or former teenager whose high school experience was filled with insecurities and self-consciousness. As a scholarship student from the Midwest, Lee attends a prestigious boarding school located in Boston. The book spans her four years at Ault Prep School, written from Lee’s now 24 year-old point of view. Lee’s initial experience at Ault shines a spotlight on her middle class family status, which often embarrasses and continually haunts her. Throughout her high school career, Lee experiences the ups and downs, crushes and heartaches of a typical teenager while set in the atypical backdrop of extreme wealth and social status. Lee’s loneliness and quest to belong is intensified by her self-doubt, yet she still remains an entertaining and likeable narrator. Readers will find Lee’s character both relatable and relevant. This book contains both mature themes and profanity, but would nonetheless make a good addition to a high school or young adult library collection. ( )
  ginawilliams | Oct 22, 2014 |
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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:35:50 -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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