Author: Curtis Sittenfeld
Read: September 2017
Okay, so I enjoyed this book. Even though nothing actually happens in it. It’s simply another coming of age book that I chose to read since it was September and it takes place at a boarding school. The main character is a young Lee Fiora and the entire story is told from her point of view. I’ve put some quotes from the novel in this post that I liked as I was reading.
“Nothing like inheriting a whole lot of money to make you think you must really deserve it.” – Lee’s father, p. 198
Lee’s from Indiana and she decides that she wants to go to a boarding school. She doesn’t have a logistical reason for going. She tells her parents that it’s for academic purposes and how it’ll pave the way for her future but she states at one point that she mainly went for boys. This young girl decided to leave home and leave her family and life for boys. Apparently, she just really liked the boys pictured on the schools’ advertisements. I don’t know how much that says about this character but yeah.
“The goal was: learn to ignore what’s down below. Fine if you met someone else who was the same as you, but you had to realize that nothing another person could do would make you feel better about any of it. In an odd way, suicide attempts seemed to me — I wouldn’t have thought this as a freshman, but I thought it now, two years later — naïve. They didn’t achieve anything, the drama they set in motion couldn’t possibly be sustained. In the end, there was always your regular life, and no one could deal with it but you.” – Lee, p. 216
So, she applies for scholarships and the one that offers the most financial help is Ault, a boarding school in Massachusetts. This is the one she chooses and she attends for all four years of high school. In her freshman year she meets a boy (the coolest and the cutest boy in their grade, of course) and becomes attracted to him and her crush kind of becomes obsessive over the next three years. His name is Cross Sugarman (?what kind of name is that?) and he is a sort of player but Lee doesn’t realize that or doesn’t see that. She sees him as some perfect person who will one day turn around and realize that they were meant to be. Of course, that doesn’t actually happen because he’s actually a douche and she’s stuck inside her fantasy and its completely unrealistic. I would’ve been so disappointed if they ended up together. It would have ruined any chance of me liking this book at all.
“Sure, I believed the worst of myself but — not really. I was always waiting to be proven wrong.” – Lee, p. 297
But let me go back to Lee as a character really quick. She is stuck in her own self-pitying mindset for the entire novel and I was like ‘shut up’ basically the whole way through. (I didn’t mind for the first year because she’s like thirteen or fourteen and I thought it was going to be a phase.) She was constantly criticizing herself and she suspected that everyone else was too. I can understand that she feels like an outsider since most of the school population is made up of kids from rich and privileged families and Lee is not. But I feel like she kind of made it a self-fulfilling prophecy in the way that she forced herself into a box and didn’t attempt to get out of it. Like she could have made friends and she had the chance to reinvent herself as a new person when she arrived. Nobody knew she was a scholarship student and it wasn’t like everyone there had some idea about who she was. Lee was obsessed with the ‘popular crowd’ and wanted to be like them, but she also had this weird hateful/judgmental view of everyone there (except for Cross obviously). Her POV was annoying just for the fact that she was very self-deprecating and I just got tired of it.
“And now I knew myself to be generous with encouragement only when I either did not want the thing the other person sought or did not believe the person would really get it. It was the opposite of what I aspired to — in the moment of truth, I wanted to be loyal and forthright, reliable, humble, trustworthy. Instead, I was greedy and envious.” – Lee, p. 278
Overall though, I liked this book. I didn’t love it, but it was a good read to pick up after the last book I read (which I couldn’t stand). I liked the writing in “Prep”; it was simple and easy to get through. I liked the parts where Lee was talking about her future. The book is told by an adult Lee remembering her life at Ault. I liked when she made a reference to how one thing would affect her ten years from now, how she thought of this moment, this memory later in life. The author had some good points throughout the novel. I felt like I could connect with Lee in some of her self-conscious moments and her thoughts made sense to me as a teenage girl. I also liked how this book touches on boarding school stereotypes and the divide between the different classes and races. It was a good balance throughout. It had all the lightness of a young high schooler’s life plus all the drama that comes with it. You should check it out if you’re looking for a quick read that’s not too much to handle all at once!
“But these people, making their way through the morning, all their meetings and errands and obligations. And this was only here, in this station at this moment. The world was so big! The sharpness of that knowledge went away almost as soon as I’d boarded the T, but it has returned over the years, and even now sometimes — I am older, and my life is very different — I can feel again how amazed I was that morning.” – Lee, p. 403