Prep, Curtis Sittenfeld, Random House Inc, 2005, 403 pp
It was a bestseller, it was praised, it was bashed. I, for one, am glad that Curtis Sittenfeld had a success with her book. It is a good book.
Lee Fiora, from South Bend, Indiana, a lower middle-class teenage girl, gets the idea that it would be cool to go to an east-coast prep school. Unbelievably she gets accepted, she gets financial aid, she convinces her parents, she arrives. Reality sets in.
She is not like these students from moneyed backgrounds. Everything about her says so: her clothes, her belongings and just the way she is. No one is more aware of these things than a 14 year old girl. So she freaks, she lays low, she creeps around trying to figure out what to do.
It is painful to go through four years of this with Lee, but the author has so truly captured what it is like at that age. Lee is desperately unhappy but she can't tell her parents that she made a mistake. She doesn't quite have the self-assurance to just be different, so she has no other choice but to suffer.
This book is not about a rebellious girl or a plucky heroine. It is about what it is really like for any teenage girl who is not popular or accepted. Sittenfeld doesn't sound a false note. I know. I went through it myself in a preppy, Ivy League college town public highschool. It was awful.
I am glad I read this. It helped me realize a lot about how my highschool years marked me for life in a certain way, but also to see how I did finally outgrow it, find myself, and find out what is really important.