Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld
I read the The American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld on my holiday last year and the tone and style of the novel was so realistic that I was eager to see what else she had to offer.
Prep was one of the books on my Christmas list and I am a sucker for any teenage school drama – hello 90210 and Gossip Girl.
Prep is set in the prestigious Ault boarding school in the US, full of rich daddy’s girls and ‘banker boys’.
Lee, is the complete anthesis to her rich and smart peers. She decides to apply to Ault based on the notion that boarding schools are exactly like those from movies (and also because her working class parents are an embarrassment to her).
Lee gets into Ault on a scholarship and has to work exceptionally hard to achieve the result of their peers. Consumed by self-doubt, Lee is painfully shy and self-conscious and therefore feels alienated by those in her year who speak of boys and fashion.
One of her pivotal moments comes when Ault has its annual holiday and while her peers all go into town or to the mall in bug groups, she decides to go by herself and get a piercing but passes out in the process. Who should save her but the dashing Cross Sugarman – the guy who every girl fancies. They have lunch together and go the cinema and bar a little flirting they don’t speak to each other for a few years but the seed is set and Lee becomes obsessed with him.
In the interim Lee befriends Martha who’s mother is rather wealthy and takes them out for posh dinners. During annual parents weekend Lee is embarrassed when her parents remark on trivial thigs about Ault which results in a huge argument with her father over her brattish, teenage behaviour.
Lee struggles with her grades and has to have a tutor to get her through. Her teachers realise her potential but she is too full of self-doubt to see her potential and worth.
Lee’s dreams eventually come true when Cross comes into hers and Martha’s room one night and climbs into bed with her. The two then embark on a friends with benefits relationship for months but Lee fails to see that he’s using her (we’ve all been there) and moves onto someone else.
But the nail in Lee’s time at Ault comes when she’s nominated to speak to a national paper about boarding schools and whether stereotypes hold true. Lee’s naivety shows when she launches into a rant about Ault’s pupils and trusts the journalist not to put it in the article. Of course she does and Lee’s legacy at Ault is her part in the awful article.
Lee’s negativity and self doubt at times is often frustrating. Her peers want to be friends with her but she pushes them away became she feels she’s not their equal so at times is her own worst enemy.
I really enjoyed the novel but did feel that I was waiting for that big event to happen which never came but on the whole I did enjoy the novel and will develop further into Sittenfeld’s back catalogue.