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Friday, 10 September 2010

Review: Prep

Author: Curtis Sittenfeld

Release date: This edition July 2010 (first published 2005)
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Target audience: Adult
UK Publisher: Black Swan


Review:
I feel a little sad to have finished Prep; it seemed to me while I was reading it that it was so full of truth and mistakes of judgment. I felt at times as if I was the main character of the story. Lee Fiora is thirteen when she has the idea that she could go to boarding school. She orders the prospectuses and is mesmerised by the glamourous, idealised images of adolescence that stare back at her. At fourteen years old, she has secured herself a place at Ault which is a prestigious private school just outside of Boston. Her parents are not well off but Lee is awarded a scholarship and she convinces them to let her go.


Prep is the story of her four years at Ault, from her early days as a Freshman to her final days as a Senior. It is an adult novel in style but it explores the experiences of a teen. I found it very relatable and I’m sure there are older teens that would enjoy this novel.


Lee is an interesting study in character. In her days at her state school, she was “special”. She stood out as academic and an achiever. At Ault, her position is not in any way extraordinary. If anything, Lee is below average at Ault and struggling to keep her grade up in Maths. She goes there thinking she will enjoy a rich and broadening education. What she actually experiences is something rather different. This is not to say that Prep gives a negative portrayal of private school education. Rather it explores Lee as a girl who is a dreamer, a thinker, a wisher but not a person of action. She is very much a voyeur. She watches the other students and almost creates a mental map of everything they do, say, wear. She is so afraid of saying the wrong thing that she rarely says anything in case she causes a social faux pas. The consequence is that much of Lee’s time is spent being incredibly lonely and living through an imaginary existence. In her first year she develops a crush on Cross Sugarman. He is a very popular guy in her year and is not lacking in self-esteem or charm. She spends so much of her time at Ault longing to be near him.


It would be easy to say that Lee is lacking in self-esteem. She is certainly not a character who is a great role model to young women but I think it isn’t fair to define her in such simple a way. It is almost as if Lee chooses to be self-conscious in the hope that it will make her more noticeable. She almost wants to be affronted, to experience some sort of monumental shake up to the social hierarchy. The frustrating thing is that as the reader you can recognise that she could easily be a part of the Ault social groupings if only she tried because she is a naturally funny and likable person.


When I wasn’t reading this book, I was thinking about it. I wanted certain things to happen; I (like Lee) willed them to happen. Prep had a very attractive style. It isn’t necessarily abundant with figurative language but there is an honesty in Lee’s narrative and her bizarre ideas about how people are and how she chooses to be are really fascinating to read. Even though adult novels are outside of my comfort zone, I couldn’t have enjoyed this book more. I am definitely going to be reading more novels by Curtis Sittenfeld. It would be fair to say that for me Prep was an education. This is one book that I would love to see transformed into a film. It had so much that I could visualise between its pages. I loved it.

15 comments:

brizmus said...

Great review! When I was a teenager in boarding school, I absolutely WAS Lee. Which, I think, is why this is one of my absolute favorite books! I'm glad that it touched you so much as well.

Irena @ This Miss Loves to Read said...

Great review! It seems that this is a truly engrossing read and that's what I value about books: the ability to pull you in, and this book can do this. Thanks for sharing! I'll keep it in mind.

Clover said...

What a great review. I had checked this book out of the library awhile ago and didn't have the time to get to it. I shall give it another chance, it sounds like a very interesting story..

Cat Clarke said...

Prep is one of my favourite (and most unsettling) reads. So glad you liked it!

So Many Books, So Little Time said...

I read this years ago and loved it. Lee felt so real to me.

Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

Beautiful review and cover :)

Jo said...

I've seen this around quite a few times. I pick it up, then put it back down again. I was never sure if it was for me. After your review, I think I'll give it a go! Thank you! :)

Splendibird said...

I was really interested to read this review as I read, and loved, American Wife by the same author earlier this year. I hadn't actually looked to see if Curtis Sittenfeld had written anything else and am surprised to find that this has a young protagonist. Your review is really well put together and has definitely prompted me to get a copy of this. I can also highly recommend American Wife - it's a fascinating piece of fiction, but has characters that you will definitely recognise.

Becky said...

Brizmus, you read this already and you didn't tell me how amazing it was?! LOL Glad you share my love of it.

Irena, you HAVE to read this. You will love it. I just know you will. Please say you'll borrow it from your library.

Clover, time to put another reservation on it. You will not be disappointed.

Cat, well now I *know* my taste in books is excellent :-)

Sophie, I think it deserves a reread *wiggles eyebrows*

Juju, thanks hun!

Jo, yay!!!! I picked it up and put it down a few times too. Do you know what made me buy it in the end? (This is very sad and embarrassing) It says it is like The OC on the front and I thought what the hell, I LOVE The OC.

Splendibird, ooh ooh ooh. I just got a copy of American Wife yesterday. I found it in a charity shop and I was so excited. I wanted to buy it as soon as I finished this but I keep telling myself I have enough books. Cannot wait to hear your thoughts on this. Please read it soon! x

Bookalicious Ramblings said...

That's it! This book has been recommended to me and after such a splendid review, I'm definitely taking it with me on holiday in a few days! I wasn't sure if I should, but how could I not now? :D

Caroline said...

Great review Becky!
I like the fact that you see in the book what no one else sees, as in Lee's charming personality. So many times, because no one knows a particular thing, it feels like it doesn't exist.
And I like the fact that through this book we would be able to see Lee. I'm genuinely interested in this book! Thanks for your review :)

Lauren said...

I was shopping with my mum recently and tried to convince her to get this one, because it looked so interesting. I'm really glad you've reviewed it because now I'm thinking I should pick it up for myself. It's interesting that you mention Lee not exactly being a role model for teenage girls but still being a great character. I tend to prefer strong female characters but I think it's most important that character ring true, and it sounds like Lee does.

booksaroundtheworld said...

Thanks for this fantastic review!!! I directly ordered the book and I am sooo looking forward to read it! :-)

Little Appletree (http://booksaroundtheworld.wordpress.com)

chickilista said...

hoping to get my hands on this book...the revoiew was fantastic...

I Want To Read That said...

Wow - awesome review! I have this somewhere - or at least I think I do - if only I could remember where! Hmm...