Worst book I've read in recent memory. It inspires in me a feeling I imagine to be familiar to those who have ever seized a pitchfork or a flaming torWorst book I've read in recent memory. It inspires in me a feeling I imagine to be familiar to those who have ever seized a pitchfork or a flaming torch and set off to terrorize a neighbor.
I've never read anything with a more loathesome, spineless, vacuous, sad-sack main character. Every single time (EVERY SINGLE TIME) Lee is on the precipice of learning something or connecting to someone or growing as a human being in any conceivable way, she slumps her shoulders and sabotages herself, and we're back to square one. This is done without the slightest self-awareness, either on her part or the writer's, which makes her an infuriating protagonist. The book is supposedly narrated by Lee later in her life as she looks back at her prep school days, but there's no perspective on her stupidity or sense that she has developed as a personality or matured in any way in the intervening years.
Also, the girl thinks about literally nothing but herself and what she imagines people think of her. She has no interests, no hobbies, no ideals, no goals. I'll hand it to Curtis Sittenfeld for creating a believable universe in the prep school setting, but her main character is not a three-dimensional human being. I mean, dude, lots of us have been depressed and self-isolating as teenagers, but we had *something* we connected to, be it music/movies/nature/sports/fashion magazines/video games/model cars/long walks/our dog/SOMETHING. It made no sense for such an emotionally sensitive and insightful character (and really, she was -- she had a lot of potential) to have no interests whatsoever beyond her own popularity (also thwarted by her utter lack of social skills). It's like Sittenfeld just plain forgot to add that dimension to her character, much like the time in 11th grade Child Development class I forgot to record bath times in my egg baby journal.
And look, I know there are plenty of books with unlikeable protagonists, but they usually have interesting personalities or are, you know, active. Scarlett O'Hara would be a terribly unpleasant person to know personally, but she's a great protagonist because she has ambitions and she gets shit done. She drives her story, even if you don't care for how she does it. Lee does nothing, cares about nothing, and gives us no incentive to follow her worthless life for 500 (or whatever) pages. I only finished the book because I promised my roommate I would.
And the thing is, Sittenfeld can write. Her prose is elegant and tight, her supporting characters are believable, her dialogue is realistic, and her world-building is awesome. Of course, I believe the prep school is based heavily on the school Sittenfeld attended herself, but its descriptions are full of little quirks and in-jokes that ring very true to what high school dynamics are like. The problem is Lee Fiora: since she is so ridiculously solipsistic, the bulk of the book takes place in her head, and her head has all the appeal of a flooded basement.
Also? I read this three years ago and still get flushed with anger whenever I think about it. I saw the book in my "read" list and realized I hadn't vented my spleen adequately with my original two-sentence review, and if I read it again (uhhh....NO), I'd have even more to add. Heinous book....more
As a life-long Peter Pan fan, I really wanted to like this book, but the writing style was oddly cluttered and rushed, and I just couldn't get into itAs a life-long Peter Pan fan, I really wanted to like this book, but the writing style was oddly cluttered and rushed, and I just couldn't get into it. Bummer....more