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Curtis Sittenfeld’s debut novel, Prep, is an insightful, achingly funny coming-of-age story as well as a brilliant dissection of class, race, and gender in a hothouse of adolescent angst and ambition.

Lee Fiora is an intelligent, observant fourteen-year-old when her father drops her off in front of her dorm at the prestigious Ault School in Massachusetts. She leaves her animated, affectionate family in South Bend, Indiana, at least in part because of the boarding school’s glossy brochure, in which boys in sweaters chat in front of old brick buildings, girls in kilts hold lacrosse sticks on pristinely mown athletic fields, and everyone sings hymns in chapel.

As Lee soon learns, Ault is a cloistered world of jaded, attractive teenagers who spend summers on Nantucket and speak in their own clever shorthand. Both intimidated and fascinated by her classmates, Lee becomes a shrewd observer of–and, ultimately, a participant in–their rituals and mores. As a scholarship student, she constantly feels like an outsider and is both drawn to and repelled by other loners. By the time she’s a senior, Lee has created a hard-won place for herself at Ault. But when her behavior takes a self-destructive and highly public turn, her carefully crafted identity within the community is shattered.

Ultimately, Lee’s experiences–complicated relationships with teachers; intense friendships with other girls; an all-consuming preoccupation with a classmate who is less than a boyfriend and more than a crush; conflicts with her parents, from whom Lee feels increasingly distant, coalesce into a singular portrait of the painful and thrilling adolescence universal to us all.

From the Hardcover edition.

420 pages, Paperback

First published January 17, 2005

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About the author

Curtis Sittenfeld

20 books7,354 followers
Curtis Sittenfeld is the New York Times bestselling author of six novels, including Rodham, Eligible, Prep, American Wife, and Sisterland, as well as the collection You Think It, I'll Say It. Her books have been translated into thirty languages. In addition, her short stories have appeared in The New Yorker, The Washington Post Magazine, Esquire, and The Best American Short Stories, for which she has also been the guest editor. Her nonfiction has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Time, and Vanity Fair, and on public radio's This American Life.

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5 stars
11,661 (17%)
4 stars
21,661 (31%)
3 stars
21,986 (32%)
2 stars
9,209 (13%)
1 star
3,515 (5%)
Displaying 1 - 29 of 5,508 reviews
Profile Image for Joe.
194 reviews24 followers
April 5, 2023
I always say if a writer can evoke complete hatred and dislike for their protagonist from me, then they must be a good writer (Lucinda Rosenfeld's What She Saw... comes to mind). So, in that regard, Curtis Sittenfeld is an excellent writer (perhaps it's a last name thing). In any case, Prep sucks.

Two reasons why I hated Prep:

1) NOTHING happens. I don't mind episodic novels in which each chapter is a tiny event that comes together as a whole (Peter Darbyshire's Please is an excellent example of this), but nothing comes together with Prep. It's one long, dull chapter of nothing after another. There's no drama, no plot twists, and no plot to twist. Heck! Even a murder thrown in would have been cliched but entertaining. The only current thread is the protagonist's exasperating unrequited 4 year crush on the most popular guy in school.

2) Lee Fiora is an annoying, whiny, dull, self centered protagonist suffering from extreme anxiety and dislike of herself. I mean I, too, was a bit self centered and had anxiety when I was in high school but goodness, Lee takes the cake.

The novel takes place over the course of four years of prep school but Lee doesn't change one bit. Seriously, this is how the novel goes and how Lee reacts to everything and everyone:

Someone will tell Lee they like her sweater. Lee will then ruminate: "She liked my sweater. Wow, how cool. But wait did she like my sweater because she really liked it? Or did she like my sweater because she was being mean and maybe something is wrong with it? I knew I shouldn't haven't worn this sweater today. Why would anyone like this sweater? I don't even like this sweater. I don't even like myself."

That's not from the novel but that's pretty much how the novel goes for 400+ pages!

In addition to that, all of the characters are one dimensional, never developed and totally stereotypical—especially the ethnic characters. The one Asian character is, of course, a straight-A student math whiz and the two Black characters are, you guessed it, a thief and the star basketball player.

Overall, a highly overrated, extremely dull, racially insulting novel that is a downright waste of time. Seriously. I kid you not. Maybe you might like it better than I did. PU! What a stinker.
Profile Image for Misa.
25 reviews5 followers
March 25, 2008
Let me first admit that "Prep" was far from perfect. I’m not sure I could argue against many of the bad reviews. At times, I longed for the novel to hurry along. The foreshadowing was clunky. Occasionally I was so bored I wasn't sure I could get through the entire novel.

And then (heavy sigh), Sittenfeld did what I hadn’t imagined anyone could do. She made me relive the most painful experiences of high school with such honesty that it was hard to believe that she wrote the book as an adult. I was astonished that she was able to remember exactly how many of these situations felt with such vividness and sincerity. Suddenly, with crushing intensity, I remembered how maddeningly frustrated I would become with my parents, how ill at ease I would feel in the presence of a beautiful, popular girl, or how devastated I was over bad crush. The magic of “Prep” is that none of this ever becomes a cliché. Sittenfeld doesn't reduce the experiences or simplify them, the way most shows, novels, and movies about high school do. She doesn’t take the abilities and desires of an adult and try to stuff them into teenage bodies. Sittenfeld is able to portray that inconsequential events have the weight of lead during adolescence. And, most amazingly, Sittenfeld does this without trying to make everything better--to make the protagonist more self-aware or to balm over her misery.

Rating the book with five stars is not a recommendation. The book made me feel awful. I cringed in discomfort, I felt humiliated over events I hadn’t thought of in years, I had nightmares about high school boyfriends.

But my heart raced when Lee felt a victory, and my stomach dropped when she experienced a defeat. How often, as a reader, can one truly say that they understood exactly how something felt?

I feel embarrassed even saying this, but I felt that I had to give “Prep” five stars because, to not do so, I would be denying that it affected me in a meaningful way.
Profile Image for Sarah.
91 reviews12 followers
September 23, 2008
This book isn't getting five stars because I thought it was a literary masterpiece. It's getting them because it's the first boarding school narrative I've read (ever) that is indicative of the actual experience, or at least my actual experience. Other books (fiction) on the subject, such as Black Ice or Oh the Glory of it All, tend to stick to one of two slants: 1) the narrator is from a poor family, gets a scholarship, and his/her has a wonderful life from boarding school on, filled with rich experiences and admittance to Harvard, and never goes back to the ghetto; 2) the narrator is from an extremely wealthy and extremely fucked-up family, escapes to boarding school, where s/he becomes vastly more fucked up, frolicking with the other rich, debauched fuckups, with the superevil family lurking in the background of each page. Prep didn't follow any of these, and admittedly, I liked it so much because it mirrored my experience.
But that's not why while reading it on a flight across the continent; somewhere above Colorado I looked up and realized I was crying. Hard. What made me cry was the memory of some of the feelings that Sittenfield describes, things that are so acute and so very particular to being away from home, in that environment, at that age. Some quotes:

"How was I supposed to understand, when I applied at the age of thirteen, that you have your whole life to leave your family? Or maybe it was going to Ault that had turned me into the kind of person who would always, for reasons of schooling, then work, stay away."

"When you go to boarding school, you're always leaving your family, not once but over and over and over, and it's not like it is when you're in college because you're older then and you're sort of supposed to be gone from them. I cried because of how guilty I felt, and because of how indulgent my guilt was...I missed them so much I was tempted to call my mother and ask her to come wait with me for the plane; she'd have done it. But then she'd know what she'd probably only suspected -- how messed up I really was, how much I'd been misleading them for the last four years. It would be much better...back on campus. But while I was in their city, it just seemed like such a mistake that I had ever left home, such an error in judgement on all our parts."

"This was what the rest of the world was like...Hardly ever did it matter if you brushed your hair before driving to the grocery store, rarely did you work in an office where you cared what more than two or three people thought of you. At Ault, caring about everything was draining, but it was also exhilarating."

"No crush is worse than a boarding school crush; college is bigger and more diluted, and in the office, at least you get a break from each other at night."

"Ault had taught me everything I needed to know about attracting and alienating people, what the exact measurements ought to be of confidence and self deprecation, humour, disclosure, inquisitiveness; even, finally, of enthusiasm. Also, Ault had been the toughest audience I'd ever encounter, to the extent that sometimes afterward, I found winning people over disappointingly easy."
Profile Image for Anna.
34 reviews1 follower
September 25, 2007
This book makes me want to shout at its critics, "you don't have to identify with the protagonist to like the book!--identification isn't the only reason to read!". But then I want to defend it precisely because it seems so "real." I.e., I identify with it.

Now I say "defend" because the book is marketed as chick-lit (I don't care how much reputable praise you list on the back cover; when there's a pink and green belt cinching your book, you're chick-lit), and I was embarrassed to brandish it on the El. But brandish it I did, because it's an intense, elaborately insightful, and imaginatively structured novel. Which is why I think identification might be beside the point--if you like Lee, if you don't like Lee; if you recognize your school in hers or you don't--it's still a visceral and whole picture of something, and it feels whole because it isn't a neat linear trajectory from insecure to secure, insular to worldly, and no-boyfriend to perfect-boyfriend. It's whole because it may not feel like your life, but it feels like someone's, and that someone is intermittently hilarious and almost always incisive. (And here's where I get all hypocritical, I know. I'm basing my praise on the very thing I'm saying shouldn't matter. I identify with the narrator's descriptions of certain relationships or social moments, so I call her "incisive." Hoist away...) For the record, though, I recommend spreading it out across several sittings rather than reading it in one big lump--otherwise you can a) become inure to the emotional swings and b) you might miss a would-be favorite line.
Profile Image for R..
52 reviews18 followers
February 9, 2017
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 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.
Profile Image for Charity.
632 reviews444 followers
August 27, 2010
Again, I was shocked by the reviews after hopping on Goodreads. Only this time, I loved it and yet, there were so many haters. Can't a girl get a break? Am I forever doomed to be the outsider? Okay, a little overly dramatic, to be sure. There are MANY more who seemed to have enjoyed it than despised it, but the haters were hanging out at the top of the reviews, so that made it seem worse than the reality.

Yes, I loved Prep...shoot me. I always wanted to go to boarding school. I, in fact, used to fantasize about it on frequent basis. My parents would threaten me with sending me to boarding school when I didn't tow the line and I was always like, 'yes, please!' I should have known better. NEVER show enthusiasm for the "punishment"...a life lesson that I should have picked up from Brer Rabbit.

Well, unfortunately, I never got to go to prep school, but I still like to fantasize about it from time to time, and this book certainly fit the bill. Teen angst is nothing if not entertaining. As Stephen King said, "If you liked being a teenager, there's something really wrong with you." Totally.
Profile Image for Lea.
271 reviews96 followers
October 24, 2010
I loathed this book, really really hated it. I kept reading, hoping for the moment when the narrator would stop complaining, stop blaming everyone else for her misery, but the moment never came. She finished high school, went on with her life, and yet KEPT COMPLAINING about boarding school. It is easy to take pot shots at New England boarding schools, and at high school in general, but this book lacks any humor and the narrator lacks any self-awareness. I don't know that I would have liked this book more if I had read it during high school because the author, who comes of as fairly self-righteous in interviews, denies that this book is meant for young adults or "chick-lit" readers. You'd be better served reading an unhappy teenager's blog.
Profile Image for Phrynne.
3,322 reviews2,142 followers
January 30, 2017
This was a huge disappointment to me. The only other book I have read by this author is Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice and I enjoyed that one so much I thought I was in for another treat. Sadly it was not to be.
Although the writing was beautiful and the recounting of life in a boarding school was probably fairly accurate, the main character was seriously unlikeable. And boring. And pathetic. And I could go on but I won't!
The story was totally lacking in any direction or action and I nearly gave up at least twice. I ploughed on hoping that Lee would develop a back bone and benefit in some way from her experiences but she did neither of those things.
So this author has given me one five star read and one two star (and that is generous). Of course I will still read her books but with less confidence next time:)
Profile Image for Maggie.
125 reviews5 followers
June 30, 2008
Lee Fiora is an average, middle class girl who feels like she is meant for far greater things than her Indiana hometown. Convincing herself that trading her Midwest family in for a fancy East Coast prep school is the answer, Lee becomes a scholarship student at the wealthy and prestigious Ault School, where she quickly learns that gaining admission isn't the same as gaining acceptance. Prep chronicles Lee's four years at Ault, starting out as an insecure and lonely freshmen, leaving as a love-sick and angst-ridden senior, and reminding us just how very important all this felt at the time.

Coming-of-age stories are hard. Being a teenager is so awkward, clunky, and uncertain, and it's difficult for any adult to write truthfully about that period without being tempted to go back and make revisions, creating a protagonist who's wittier, cooler, or more dangerous than most of us ever really were. So when I finally picked up Prep - a book that was something of a critical darling when it was released and touted as a female version of The Catcher in the Rye - it was with strong feelings of reservation that I began. After all, I had been burned many times before by the coming-of-age novel, and female authors tend to be the worst offenders for some reason.

So, imagine my delight when Prep turned out to be everything it was lauded to be - a smart, honest, insightful, and often embarrassing trip back to one's formative years that doesn't make apologies or unnecessary revisions. It was far from perfect, often painful, and at 449 pages sometimes felt a bit long, but these criticisms were easy for me to overlook seeing as I've never related to any fictional character the way I related to Lee Fiora. Apart from the boarding school element, reading her story was like revisiting my own high school years, complete with all the heartbreak, angst, and feelings of self-doubt that it entailed. Lee's decisions are often questionable, her insecurities difficult to reason, and she can often be downright unlikeable, but if we're being honest with ourselves - weren't we all? Aren't some of us still?

With Prep, Sittenfeld nailed what it's really like to be a teenager - or at least what it was really like for me - and in so doing restored my faith in the genre. No small feat, that.
Profile Image for Jill.
353 reviews342 followers
October 17, 2017
When I went to college I was shocked to meet kids who had actually attended boarding school. I had grown up on a steady diet of boarding school literature, but conceptually, it seemed so preposterous. You went to boarding school if you were European and from the 19th century, not if you were American and born in the early 90s. I befriended one girl who attended a Massachusetts boarding school as a day student. When I asked her about the experience, she shook her head and said, “Never send your kids to boarding school. It fucks you up.”

As I came to know more ex-boarding school students, her generalization gained credence. The boarding school kids knew seemingly every possible way to consume alcohol, with some methods so ingenious I couldn’t help but wonder if their education truly was of a higher caliber than mine. They were fully formed adults who behaved like they were in their late 20s. Meanwhile, the rest of us floundered about, worried about breaking dorm occupancy rules.

After reading Prep I understand them better. I know how they came to be this way at the mere age of 18. In Prep Curtis Sittenfeld presents an authentic portrait of boarding school life that, for any sane parent at least, should serve as a massive flashing warning sign before sending any child away to school.

Our protagonist Lee Fiora decides to apply to an East Coast boarding school in a fit of precociousness and derring-do at the age of 14. She leaves her parents and calm Midwestern existence for a more exciting life at Ault School. Again: at the age of 14. It goes horribly, of course. She must face the gender, race, and class discrimination that props up the ivy-covered brick façade of Ault. She navigates loneliness. She struggles to answer this question: do I want to change myself, peel away my me-ness in order to fit into this archaic institution or do I want to alienate myself from everyone by becoming a conscientious objector to this lifestyle? She narrates her four years at Ault after the fact as an adult, and it is clear that even after maturing outside this fishbowl, she has no good answer to this question.

Two disclaimers:
1. This is not chick-lit, despite the title and pink belted cover.
2. It is an uncomfortable read.

If we’re supposed to read this book as chick-lit, it’s ridiculously marketed. It has too much bite to be considered chick-lit, with its extraordinarily detailed narration and its casual indictment of its wealthy and waspy characters. Lee’s perspective is devastatingly realistic, apparently so authentic that some have questioned how biographical this story is. The goodreads reviews for this book are atrocious. Most people seem to hate Lee because she is always a bystander and never an actor. I must admit that even as an introvert, I found Lee’s introversion and resulting passivity infuriating and occasionally painful. She cannot decide how she wants to participate in this ridiculous life she’s accidentally chosen for herself at age 14 and thus she’s listless. She moves nowhere, being careful to make no obvious mistakes but because of that, truly making every mistake. As she says,
I always worried someone would notice me, and then when no one did, I felt lonely.
Teenagers live in state of metamorphosis and high school is their chrysalis. Imagine if your chrysalis is inhabited by the spoiled offspring of Manhattanite bankers and national senators. Imagine if the floral pattern on your bedspread determines whether you are popular or not. Imagine that if you pine after a boy, you can never approach him; he will pursue, you will be pursued. Imagine if your chrysalis cannot be cracked open at the end of each school day when you return home; you live among your peers in this extreme environment for four straight years.

Actually stop imagining that because it’s horrifying. It’s obvious how such a life could ruin a mere child. How can you decide who you want to be in such conditions? I loved Sittenfeld’s largely plotless but wholly profound depiction of these conditions because it allowed me to vicariously live them without suffering their consequences.

And after the melancholy final page, I was forcefully reminded me of three things: 1. we can only hope we have good parents 2. only by being rich, white, and male can you live your life effortlessly 3. boarding school will fuck you up.
Profile Image for Sita.
108 reviews58 followers
August 7, 2011
Two stars is way to generous...

I read the entire book. Okay, so I might have skipped huge chunks of it but I read it.

The book is about a girl that goes to a boarding school, she is shy (and quite boring), the book summary explains it. i did not pick up this book because I wanted to read about 4 years of being stuck in a boarding school, that she applied to (But changed her mind).

I thought it was going to be about a girl who climbs her way up the social ladder, makes lot's of friends, generally has a good experience and maybe meets a guy. Boy was I wrong. The main character grew in almost no way. She was winey and spent most of the book complaining about her life, which after the first 100 pages got really annoying. I was mentally screaming at her to go talk to someone, which she obviously could, as the author shows in small snippets. Oh and she also worships a total dick (Not even good supporting characters).

Overall, I really don't think this book is worth reading. It left me unsatisfied, and it wasted an entire saturday. So, just don't bother.
Profile Image for Melki.
6,031 reviews2,385 followers
April 18, 2017
Curtis Sittenfeld popped up on my radar after I read two of her stories in The New Yorker - Gender Studies & The Prairie Wife. She's got a book of collected short stories coming out next year - too long for me to wait - so I decided to give this novel a try. I'm glad I did, though I suspect it's not for everyone.

Here we have the tale of Lee Fiora, a Midwestern girl on her own at a hoity-toity East coast prep school. Much of Lee's experiences are universal, and shared by young adults at any school - the difficulty of finding and keeping friends, maintaining one's grades, and trying to shuffle through those awkward teenage years with one shred of dignity intact. Lee's travails, however, are complicated by the fact that she has to share room and board with her classmates. There is never really any down time when she can escape from them.

This bit really struck a chord with me. I can't imagine how I would have suffered the agonies of high school without a room of my own; a solitary haven filled with my books, my magazines, and my record albums played at a volume of my choosing. My heart went out to Lee, who never gets to be truly alone with herself.

Sittenfeld has an ear for believable dialogue. Her characters say things that teens would say - NOT the clever things they might have thought of twenty minutes after the fact. (Yes, I know John Green's characters are adorable and entertaining, but have you really ever met kids who speak the way they do?) As the author was a Cincinnati girl who attended a boarding school in Massachusetts, I suspect at least some of this is autobiographical. And, as a first novel, it's got a lot going for it.

But . . . as much as I enjoyed the book, I wouldn't recommend it. It is long, and drawn out, with the story evolving at a glacial pace - we experience FOUR YEARS in a young girl's life. When Lee reflects that something seems like it happened long ago, it does seem like so very long ago. Lee is not particularly likable, and makes some questionable choices in her quest for popularity. I was cringing at her desperate attempts to make a sought-after boy notice her.

Maybe I was also cringing at some of the memories this reading has kindled: embarrassing moments I'd rather forget, high school friends I treated shabbily, my own desires to be one of the "cool" kids. Damn you, high school! It's only four freakin' years of our lives, but this shit never goes away, does it?
Profile Image for Caroline .
429 reviews593 followers
July 16, 2017

Sittenfeld impressed me with this story. I wasn’t expecting something as deep as I got from Prep--which isn’t to say I was expecting it to be frivolous, just that it’s more than meets the eye. The setting is a boarding school and all that accompanies that, but Prep isn’t about the petty and superficial drama of wealthy teen snobs. That would make it not worth reading.

Prep is told from the first-person perspective of socially anxious Lee, a lower-middle–class scholarship student attending a boarding school with a $22,000-a-year price tag. Her keen awareness of the socio-economic differences between her and her high-class schoolmates cripples her, and a large part of the story occurs inside her head as she obsesses over feelings of inadequacy.

Many school stories tell of teen groups shunning certain others, but Prep is different. Lee’s identity and sense of self-worth is intimately connected to her socio-economic status, so Prep is a strong psychological study. The very wealthy supporting characters are only rough sketches or at most, one-dimensional, but when they do appear, they underscore the socio-economic differences well.

I admired Sittenfeld’s take on the boarding-school story. She set out to make Prep a commentary on something bigger and achieved it with flying colors. Each chapter is yet another vivid illustration of the message but subtly so, and by the end, the picture is complete. I got the sense that Sittenfeld wrote Prep with calculated restraint, understanding that to rush the story would be to risk hitting her reader over the head.

Her writing did need some polishing, so I don’t consider Prep expert. Sittenfeld tended to write extremely long sentences full of comma splices. These were so clumsy that sometimes I couldn’t make heads or tails of what she was saying and just gave up. I also was distracted by her overuse and occasional misuse of dashes. Still, I do look forward to reading more of her work, and I recommend Prep to all those interested in a deeper teen-centered novel.
Profile Image for Jessica.
497 reviews13 followers
April 8, 2008
this book was a complicated one for me. if i could, i'd probably give it a 2 slash 3 for its rating. the best way i can describe it is this: you know when you meet someone and after talking for a little while you start to think, wow, this person is JUST like me, we're totally on the same wavelength! and then each meeting after that you continue to have the same impression UNTIL they say or do something so foreign to your personality that it makes you realize you are NOTHING alike. to the point where you just want to disassociate yourself from that person as quickly as possible all the while hoping that this person doesn't latch on to you, because there is no way you want other people thinking that there are any similarities between the 2 of you? well thats how i felt about the main character.

i would have given the book a higher rating -- because the author does an AMAZING job of recreating that angsty, self-conscious, dreary wasteland known as the high school years -- but i was so annoyed with the ending. its just that the narrator (who is telling her story some 20 years later or so) still doesn't seem happy or content with her life. and it doesn't make sense to me that someone who is so insightful, and so able to acutely analyze and make sense of her past just can't move on and make a happier life. i didn't love high school, but life got INFINITELY better for me after that, and i just wanted to see SOME kind of progression in the narrator.

sorry this is such a long review. i just get a little too involved in what i'm reading, and tend to fixate on it for way too long afterward. by the time the book ended, it was just depressing. it made me feel some overwhelming urge to write my own memoirs of high school just to prove to myself that i have evolved as a person since then. i don't know. this book left me very conflicted. and in the end, i don't think i could recommend it to anyone i know, both because i think many would be annoyed with the main character, and also because of the language and the sex scenes going on.
Profile Image for nastya .
448 reviews287 followers
September 7, 2023
This is one of the dullest books I've ever read. This is my 4th Sittenfeld and I think I'm starting to see the pattern. The main heroine tends to be painfully boring and have no personality whatsoever and this young girl is no exception. But unlike with Romantic comedy or Eligible, there's nothing funny or witty here. This is a story about a 15 year old who goes to some very pretentious private school and we are privy to her every thought or gesture. So many details about her every day life and zero reasons for me to care about her or anyone else. I did think Sittenfeld is long-winded in her latest, but it's nothing compared to this one or Sisterland.
Profile Image for Ellie Hamilton.
128 reviews120 followers
June 23, 2023
The writing of this book was spectacular but too young for me the book was overall.
Profile Image for Raquel.
689 reviews
June 28, 2007
You know, I started out really liking this book. I thought the writing was good, and I found myself really relating to the protagonist as I used to have many of the same tendencies (not really involving myself in things and instead just hanging out on the fringes of life). But then about halfway through, the book just turned craptastic. Of course the craptastickness involved a boy. It always does. But it just ruined the book for me. It made me just not like Lee, the main character, at all. She turned sort of pathetic for me.

All the reviews raved about how this was Catcher in the Rye from a girl's perspective. My question for them is: Have you ever actually read Catcher? Because they're nothing alike.

I write this review to save you from being sucked into the hype. Don't buy into it; there's nothing extraordinary about this book. Go watch Dead Poets Society instead. (I'm assuming you've already read Catcher in the Rye, right? Let's hope so.)
Profile Image for Anna.
2 reviews
July 8, 2007
Having attended a prep school myself, I found the descriptions of prep school logistically were fairly accurate. It was a strange flashback into life with boarding students and the activities/events that surround going to an elite private school that focuses greatly on matriculation into Ivy Leagues.
Despite the vague nostalgia that I felt at times, the protagonist was extremely hard to identify with, although she did have characteristics that could have made her more sympathetic. What I believe this book portrayed was the angst-ridden judgement and insecurities felt by a less wealthy prep schooler...completely maximized in a way that stereotypes students at prep schools and the emotions that lie inside a teenage mind.
While this book was an extremely quick read, therefore proving that it wasn't so painful that you put it down completely, the main character remained fairly unchanged in her views, and even in retrospect, lacked the ability to see that by judging those around her, she had pigeon-holed herself.
What many people believe, in real life, I have found, is that those who attended the elite boarding schools of America are rich, ungrateful, spoiled and unlikeable people. What many people don't see is the fact that these types of people exist everywhere--in or outside of prep schools. Therefore, while many of them do attend these schools, it is unfair to believe that everyone who attends these schools are as such. Unfortunately, the protagonist has a few glimpses into the world of the wealthy, and some moments of clarity where she realizes that riches or popularity don't necessarily lead to happiness, but she still neglects to see the bigger picture, or fully understand that sentiment. Believing that others are ostracizing her for her lower income, her financial aid, or her general social awkwardness, she ends up isolating herself in a manner that ends up more frustrating than heartfelt.
There are many identifiable moments in the book, which are best served to those who went to prep school and felt, at times, a little bit out of the loop. It speaks especially to those who were not considered the "cool kids" but so desperately wanted to be, but in the end, it remains a tale of woes from a girl who has judged herself worse than others could have ever judged her, and who remains closed to the idea that everyone is lonely sometimes.
Profile Image for Spider the Doof Warrior.
433 reviews238 followers
July 7, 2017
I can't decide how I felt about this book.
In some ways I could identify with the main character. The book reminded me a bit of when I went to college in upstate NY.
But, at the same time, the main character was frustrating. She hated her school and where she was, but she didn't do anything about it. I loved my time in upstate NY. But this character was always complaining about how much she hated the school she went to and expressing frustration, but NOT TAKING ANY ACTION.
And the whole "romance" part? Not so good.

Also there is too much Omphaloskepsis (this is a cool word i just learned and need to remember)

Who can stand being in this irritating girl's brain? This is the downside of first person narration. When you are stuck in the head of someone boring, annoying or frustrating or all three and you just can't squirm out of it because it won't switch to another more interesting narrator who is doing things besides being passive and just letting her life happen without trying to steer it.

I keep bathroom reading this book. It's frustrating to be in this girl's head. Note to self, do not write a character in first person and have the audience go OMG WILL YOU GET OVER YOURSELF OR I WILL SMACK YOU WITH A TUNA!

So I read it again from the beginning for some odd reason. I have so many books laying around my apartment. Why go back to this one? It frustrates me how this character lacks confidence. I really want to dip her in a pool of feminism and self respect. I want to lock teenagers in a tower and tell them, NO! You are NOT ready for the larger world at all even if you think you are. I'm not even ready and I'm old enough to be your mother if I had you very, very young. How can they think they can navigate the adult world if you can't even tell a boy what you really want? Admit it. You want him as more than just someone to have sex with and you should have told him this Lee, you pesky young woman! GUH!

But sometimes she had moments of describing things in an amusing way that reminded me of me. But I OWNED my shyness, my desire for solitude rather than vilify them.

It probably would have been more interesting if this character had been autistic and bisexual. Then her social awkwardness would have made a bit more sense and been more engaging to me who longs for more stories with bisexual autistic people. Or even asexual or heterosexual or gay autistic people.

7/17 Ugh. Lee still annoys me so much.
Profile Image for Michele.
Author 5 books99 followers
February 7, 2008
A for Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaangst
Prep, a story told by the talented Curtis Sittenfeld, was hard to put down. The narrator, Lee Fiora, an unremarkable girl from South Bend, Indiana, does a remarkable thing. At 13 she decides to apply to East Coast Prep schools and winds up spending an angst-ridden four years at Ault School just outside of Boston, Mass.

("How was I supposed to understand, when I applied at the age of thirteen, that you have your whole life to leave your family?")

This is the story of EVERYTHING that goes on inside her head. The quote above is just one example. It's all about observation and laying bare the atmosphere that is Prep School as experienced by an outsider. And this outsider believed herself to be "a petty, angry, impotent person."

Lee outlines her memories by grade level, (freshman, sophomore, junior, senior) and focuses on major and minor events shaping each year. The detail is both exquisite and annoyingly sharp and pulls you into each scene as though it's happening in the now rather than some 20 years ago. It's personal and revealing and I can't imagine anyone who didn't experience at least some of the same thoughts during high school--no matter what school or what place.

Freshman year it's all about roommates and assimilating to what is for Lee a foreign climate. It's also the year where she first develops a crush on a golden boy named Cross Sugarman. Other students, Dede and Martha, for example, use their time at Ault to get the education they were promised; however, Lee--an average to poor student--spends all her time fantasizing about Cross. As the years sail by, Lee learns to deal with all things associated with coming of age, except for what it truly means to fit in.

Great storytelling, tremendous character development, extremely well written and I highly recommend this book. I have to say it reminded me a little bit of four years at Hogwarts, without the wizardry, of course, and a heroine who unlike Harry Potter, wasn't popular and had no self-confidence.
Profile Image for Kirk.
Author 40 books221 followers
December 12, 2007
I recently read this for an encyclopedia entry I was writing on post-2000 coming-of-age novels, so my assessment, I fear, isn't really fair. On the one hand, I think Sittenfeld is a very talented writer, but on the other, I kept wanting to say GTFU (you know, grow the *#^$ up), which seems very, very ungenerous of me. In the end, I can appreciate what attracted people to this book, making it a surprise success. That doesn't mean the book sticks with me or changed my life in any drastic way---and isn't that what we crave from a novel? I guess the lesson I learned from writing the entry is that WAY too many of us authors (if I may call myself that) go the C-of-Age route early in life. If we're lucky, we mature to recognize that adolescence isn't the be-all, end-all of our lives---despite what the culture tells us about clinging to youth. I want adult books, and I want to say to Curtis, please, please, after THE MAN OF MY DREAMS (the follow up to PREP), take a risk, look beyond your own experience, imagine someone who's not a 16-28 year old girl/woman struggling with place/parental affection/identity, and write me a magnum opus about---oh, I don't know---exploited sugar cane workers in South Florida.

Then again, who am I to ask such a thing of an author?
Profile Image for Tyler Goodson.
171 reviews125 followers
March 30, 2020
For whatever reason, I feel deeply connected to this book. I am thankful for it, and I love it very much.
Profile Image for Jenny.
150 reviews11 followers
July 21, 2008
after re-reading 7.08:

Sittenfeld is a genius. The voice of Lee Fiora is so poignant and so real — she is so screwed up, but Sittenfeld shows this to us perfectly, in small bites, with a background (and the perfect characters for foils) that out her screwed-up-ness crisply and in heartbreaking detail. Lee speaks from a gorgeously flawed teenage place — somewhere intensely familiar, somewhere achingly wrong about so many things — and her foibles translate so well for me. This reread (number three) felt new because this time I am in love, and that influence of being-in-love totally enhanced my reading — surprisingly it pulled me closer to Lee and reminded me, over and over, what I've learned from her, this time and all other times.

I love this book. Utterly and absolutely.

posted 12.06:

I came back to this book, revisiting an old friend, because I had a wretched experience with Sarum, by Edward Rutherfurd, of which I read 445 pages before returning it to the library unfinished because I was terminally bored. Best decision I've ever made.

Prep hits me in places I'm not entirely sure I like being hit, but I always feel better afterwards for it--catharsis at its best, I think. This was just as true through my rereading as it was the first time around. Lee's experience, and the way she relates it through her sharp, insightful, guileless first-person narration, resonates with me such in a deep way that it's actually difficult for me to talk about it; I'm much more likely to cry than to speak eloquently about this book. (This makes it a beautiful challenge to recommend at the bookstore.) This read-through had me thinking even more about college and crushes and the immediacy of everything when you're away at school. I know my tendency to be nostalgic magnifies this all for me, but I wouldn't have it any other way. I liked being poked; Prep pokes me, and the tears always feel better for having been shed.
Profile Image for Claire Reads Books.
141 reviews1,385 followers
June 7, 2023
Where do I send the invoice for the therapy I’ll need after this book, Ms. Sittenfeld?? A compulsive and nearly unbearable read!
Profile Image for Jennifer Wardrip.
Author 5 books487 followers
May 11, 2008
Reviewed by Amanda Dissinger for TeensReadToo.com

Walking through the typical young adult section of a bookstore, there are usually five, maybe even ten, books about a teenage girl, perhaps from a small town, who transfers from that wee little town to a prep school.

Typically, this prep school is in Connecticut, or Massachusetts. Typically, the girl starts out struggling, tries to fit in with the popular crowd, misses her hometown, faces many moral problems, and meets a handsome, promising young prep school boy who shows her the ways of love. Seeing the plot of Curtis Sittenfeld's PREP for the first time, a normal reader would write it off as being another cliché prep school book.

There's where they'd be wrong.

PREP is a searing, creative look at the life of one small-town girl, Lee Fiora, who comes from her home in South Bend, Indiana, to Ault, a prep school in Massachusetts. Exposed to many new kinds of ideas and people, Lee stands on the thin line between misery and naivety as she explores all that her new life has to offer.

Sittenfeld writes about teen angst in a way that doesn't try to make it seem petty or unimportant; she embraces it, and fully understands it. This is what sets the book apart from many other titles. Wallowing in loneliness and heartbreak, the reader feels as if Lee is actually a part of them, and that they are experiencing all of the awkward and horrible events that are occurring in the story.

Lee acts as an opposite-gender Holden Caulfield, the main male character in J.D. Salinger's classic novel THE CATCHER IN THE RYE. She takes everything with a grain of salt and a little bit of dry humor while making wise observations well beyond her years. PREP is bound to become a classic, for its brutally honest interpretation of a time that plagues all of us: high school.
Profile Image for David.
865 reviews1,338 followers
August 6, 2008
On the plus side.

It's compulsively readable, even when you want to reach in and strangle the angst-ridden, preternaturally detached, protagonist.

On the minus side.

After a while, you just want to reach in and strangle the angst-ridden, preternaturally detached, protagonist.

Full disclosure: My high school years were spent at a Catholic boarding school. The first year away from home was miserable. I'm familiar with detachment as a survival mechanism, but Lee Fiora, the protagonist of "Prep" brings it to incredibly irritating, and ultimately implausible, new lows.
Profile Image for Alex.
1,419 reviews4,485 followers
January 21, 2016
I went to prep school. Briefly. In Massachusetts. It was a place with a chapel and a headmaster who knew everyone's names.

When I tell people that, they're like whoa, really? Because, I assume, me and the place described in this book don't seem to go together very well - which, good point, we didn't - and then they say what was it like? And I should just hand them this book and say it was like this.

It was exactly like this, down to such uncanny details that I looked it up to make sure it wasn't the same school. (It wasn't, it was Groton.) So if you've been to boarding school, even for a minute, you'll enjoy this - and if you've ever wondered what it would be like, or at least what it was once like, it was like this, for better and for worse.

And it's most definitely like this to be on financial aid. I reacted to the feeling differently than she did, but I certainly felt her alienation - the invisible wall separating us from most everyone else. Some of the rich students were oblivious to the financial gulf between us, but I wasn't. Not for a second. Later I would learn how to take a kind of aggressive pride in my not-richness, but I hadn't learned it then; I just felt disadvantaged. It made me feel bad.

I love Lee, the hero or the antihero of this book, because I think you can interpret her either way. I personally have a thing for quiet, smart, sarcastic girls, so I'm on her team, but

It doesn't all quite hang together as a novel. It's more of a series of vignettes. But it's engagingly written and clearly seen. I dug it.
Profile Image for Christine.
124 reviews10 followers
August 2, 2007
the book that traumatized me for the weekend: Curtis Sittenfeld's Prep. Ms. Sittenfeld writes very well, maybe too well- I have to say, she did a fine job planting the image of the drama in my mind, but now it's burned too well, and since the images/ideas aren't exactly the sort I want to keep in my head, I wish I didn't have to remember it. The main character isn't my favorite person, but the reader is still compelled to understand her.

The freaky points are: a) I used to want to go to a prep school. After having read this, I'll never want to be a prep schooler, am glad I was not one, and I will not be sending my kids to one. b) Her observations about social interactions are relateable to real-life ones and therfore very believable e.g. about the African-american student's advice about black kids around white rich people c) the main character goes to my alma mater, and that's about where I don't understand....b/c I've never met any prepschoolers at my alma mater, and the book makes it sound like my school is some second tier toss-up alternative, b/c all the prep schoolers would not be interested in attending it. And more scary: maybe I had that attitude too??? d) the main character's feelings especially about her embarassment of her family- that HIT HOME. Where you're embarassed about people you love, and never have had to feel embarassment about before, but do inexplicably.

I wish I could explain it to my parents.

e) on the bright side, I never had the lurid night-life of the main character. (shudder- more reason to keep your kids at home where you know what they're doing, than let them go live at a co-ed school).
Profile Image for S’s Reading World .
304 reviews10 followers
February 5, 2017
I struggled for a few days on what to write in a review for this book. Because I came away with feeling the book was awkward, yet I liked it, but yet I did not. And so is the life of PREP...

PREP is about a young girl from the midwest who attends a fancy New England Prep school in I think the decade of the 1990s -- this by the lack of emailing, cell phones, phones in rooms etc. I don't recall the date ever being given.

Our main character is complex. And with that it was hard for me to write a review, and during the reading, her complexities had my thoughts about her, and the book, going up and down, good to bad. The first quarter of this book had me assuring myself this was a 5 star I can't put down reader. The Lee turned my thoughts upside down.

Lee (main character) became downright annoying and I put the book away for awhile during what were here sophomore and junior years. But I realized only after finishing this book that there was nothing wrong with Lee, or the story, or the impeccably honest writing. The reason this book may be hard to read is because for women, it may be all too real, too raw, to recall life as a teenage girl. Age 15-16 may be the hardest years for a teenager, male or female. Emotions are high, moods switch instantly, and that was reflected in the writing and the plot.

Lee is endearing, shy, careful, rude, nosey, aloof, spontaneous, lazy, premeditated, mean, loving, and hormonal all wrapped into one person. While reading it annoyed me. After reflecting I realize she had to be all of those qualities, good or bad, and more -- BECAUSE she is a teenager.

So when Lee was annoying, the book became annoying. When Lee was endearing, the book was a must read. When Lee was frustrating, the book was frustrating. And so it went as I rolled through the ups and downs of high school.

That is the life of most american teenage girls which is why the book is so brilliant. You hate her. You love her. You want to slap her. You are embarrassed for her. And yet in some part of this book I suspect every reader will relate to her.

PREP is less about a prep school and more about the ups and downs and the lows and highs of being 14-18years of age. It is a reflection of how those four years may permanently alter or change you for better or worse. PREP reveals the best, the worst, and the mediocre of teenage years.

Its easy to read when its funny. Its hard to read when its so raw you know what you are reading is true but you want to look away because well --- most people probably remember all too well the awkward years.

And PREP itself IS awkward, because its supposed to reflect that. At least that is how I came away from this book. When I was mad at the book I realized I was mad at something that was all to reminiscent of something I witnessed in my awkward years.

So there is why I find the book brilliant. But I can't give it 5 stars because in a few spots I think we went a bit over the top in the rawness of this story. (Some of the tales in PREP are downright shameful, even if accurate). And while I get why Lee is often unlikeable, it marred my reading just enough that this is a 4 star.

Writing is fabulous. Sittenfeld should be applauded for writing something that is so real it makes you hate it and love it all at once.
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