Review: Prep

Curtis Sittenfeld (2005)

Prep follows the four-year progression of one girl through an East Coast prep school in the ‘80s. Lee Fiora is a fish out of water in every way when she arrives at Ault: she’s from the Midwest, her background isn’t privileged or well-to-do, she’s no longer at the top of her class, and she’s an introverted teenager who continually sets herself apart from her classmates.

I shouldn’t be surprised that I didn’t like this book, since I hated high school and Prep reminded me in part why. I guess that’s a credit to the author, but it certainly didn’t add to my enjoyment of the book. Neither did the fact that I didn’t care for Lee’s character in the least. Yes, teenagers are moody and self-centered and full of raging hormones, blah blah blah, but at 400 pages, I have to be invested in the development of the main character, curious about where she’ll end up. Not so here in the least.

Sittenfeld’s prose is very readable. She does a fine job of creating a genuine boarding school setting and populating it with a believable student body. Obviously the author attended prep school herself and knows of what she writes. There’s just an awful lot of it–the minutia of a teenager’s life, in and out of the classroom, out (and mostly in) her head. Prep is broken into four sections, one for each year and by the time senior year rolled around, I’d had enough. Unfortunately, Lee’s final year was the worst reading of the lot and in my view, brought the book down to a very unsatisfying conclusion.

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