Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld | Rating: ★★★★★
“There are people we treat wrong and later we're prepared to treat other people right. Perhaps this sounds mercenary, but I feel grateful for these trial relationships, and I would like to think it all evens out - surely, unknowingly, I have served as practice for other people.”
Okay. I’ll admit that I first read Prep at an age that was, perhaps, too young to be reading it. I understood some thing, other things didn’t quite click with my middle school aged mind. I didn’t fully appreciate parts of the narration, the story, until I was older and had experience life a bit more for myself.
I was too young.
(Except not really because, I was certainly the same age as our narrator Lee Fiora.)
What I mean to say, there were many things I didn’t necessarily understand at the time and didn’t realize the book was written for someone far older than me. Prep is the perfect case of how everyone’s life progresses at a different speed than our own and is a generous nod at fiction. All the same, I connected with it instantly and even still it is one of my favorite books ever.
At the time it was mostly a cover buy during the days I’d spend my lunch money on books and a coffee at Barnes and Noble; looking eagerly for the next book to take me away from the dull events of everyday life. There was something cute and simple about the cover art and name; causing me to flip it over and read the summary.
If the word “Prep” wasn’t enough for me to be drawn in, let’s just say that upon hearing “teenager” and “boarding school” I quickly added it to my pile and paid for it. I am not sure what I was expecting from it, except perhaps something in the vein of shallow teen reads. I was pleasantly surprised. It took me quite a while to read it, however, because in spite of how interesting it was to me it was certainly formatted differently compared to everything else I’d been reading.
This was during the beginning days of my interests in reading, where I’d stuck mostly to Harry Potter and Gossip Girl, or books by Lurlene McDaniel and Lois Duncan. Curtis Sittenfeld’s writing is by no means complicated, but it was certainly a step above the simple children’s and young adult books I’d been reading. Its narration takes on a different tone that is observant, dark and light all at once.
The thing about Prep is that it’s insightful, it’s easily as hilarious and sweet as it is raw and angsty. There’s a quality to it that is severely lacking in coming of age stories, with its brutal honesty and a balance of other lifelike things to keep it engaging.
Most importantly it’s just a realistic tale and gives a portrait of many characters; from the ordinary and scholarship kids living in a non-glamorous way to those kids who have far more access and privilege than any of us can even imagine. There’s not just one type of person to look to in Prep. We get to know Lee on such an intimate level, it’s a joy to watch her grow through lives ups and downs and it’s easy to like her.
There’s a lot to it that makes it impossible to describe to those who’ve not read it yet, even in the nearly ten years since its original release. It’s real life in all its sweet moments, it’s real life in all its ridiculously mortifying events and it’s likely to make you smile and cringe in many parts because it is just… real.
Did I mention it’s real?
Lee is observant and incredibly innocent compared to some of her peers. She serves perfectly as someone who doesn’t [not] belong but doesn’t quite fit amongst the teenagers who are intriguing, worldly and filthy rich. Lee is an innocent in the sea of intimidating classmates but that doesn’t make anyone more or less than each other, it just shows us the temporary line of what is and what is not.
She forms friendships in likely and unlikely places and Sittenfeld does an excellent job in providing us the voice of a realistic scholarship student. We see her grow in her time away at school and see friendship grow and fall apart; we see her falling in love and lust for the very first time in a manner that makes both sides of this almost-relationship raw and undeniably true.
It gives us a warmth of questions, answers and is overall a delight to read. There’s nothing quite like Prep and Curtis’ writing; I loved every moment of it then and love every moment of it now.