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.Praise for Prep
“Curtis Sittenfeld is a young writer with a crazy amount of talent. Her sharp and economical prose reminds us of Joan Didion and Tobias Wolff. Like them, she has a sly and potent wit, which cuts unexpectedly—but often—through the placid surface of her prose. Her voice is strong and clear, her moral compass steady; I’d believe anything she told me.”—Dave Eggers, author of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
“Speaking in a voice as authentic as Salinger’s Holden Caulfield and McCullers’ Mick Kelly, Curtis Sittenfeld’s Lee Fiora tells unsugared truths about adolescence, alienation, and the sociology of privilege. Prep’s
every sentence rings true. Sittenfeld is a rising star.”—Wally Lamb, author of She’s Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True
“Do you remember what high school felt like? Curtis Sittenfeld does, and she captures the experience brilliantly. . . . Angst is everywhere between the pages, but so too is wit, wisdom, and empathy.”—Marie Claire
“Prep conveys the inner world of an entirely typical teenage girl with remarkable warmth. . . . One of the most tender and accurate portraits of adolescence in recent memory.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“Hilarious and excruciating . . . [a] richly textured narrative.”—The New Yorker
“[A] class act.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Funny, excruciatingly honest, improbably sexy, and studded with hardwon, eccentric wisdom about high school, heartbreak, and social privilege. One of the most impressive debut novels in recent memory.”—Tom Perrotta, author of Little Children and Election
“Gripping . . . The intensity of Lee’s experience gives it from the outset its own throbbing, undeniable legitimacy. . . . The novel never slows, due to Sittenfeld’s perfect pacing and almost reportorial knack for describing what it’s like—psychologically, logistically—to be fifteen. . . . Insightful, unexpectedly candid.”—The Washington Post Book World
“For everyone who wished that Holden Caulfield was a girl, your time has come with Prep
.”—U.S. News & World Report
“Sittenfeld writes convincingly of the torments of adolescence, the anxiety inherent in every small gesture and conversation. Her dialogue captures teenage humor brilliantly, and her characters show remarkable depth and a surprising but believable maturity. . . . Candid . . . Moving.”—Chicago Tribune
“The details are perfect. . . . Lee is an appealing heroine.”—Newsweek
“The list of writers who have attempted to capture the angst of teens at prep school includes J. D. Salinger, John Knowles and, more recently, Tobias Wolff. Now an impressive new talent joins this distinguished roster. Avoiding overextended melodrama along with obvious clichés in her whole-hearted, raw, and impressive first novel, Curtis Sittenfeld unleashes a pure, unrefined narrative on the transcendental experiences of adolescence. . . . Sittenfeld’s brilliant writing sparkles in each turn, hitting the bitter isolation of adolescence spot-on.”—Rocky Mountain News
“Engrossing . . . Sittenfeld’s writing is wonderfully descriptive, as well as spare and clear-eyed; her talent is evident in the smooth pacing and well-developed characters. . . . A gorgeous and charming debut that belongs with the fine coming-of-age stories of our time.”—The Charlotte Observer
“[An] A-grade coming-of-age debut . . . saturated with heartbreaking humor and written in clean prose . . . [A] poignant, truthful book.”—Publishers Weekly
“Engrossing . . . Sittenfeld has an enormous knack for storytelling and dialogue, and a delightful feel for words. She vividly conjures the rollercoaster emotions of adolescence, no matter how recent and raw or longago and healed.”—The Cincinnati Enquirer
“Finely written . . . Teenagers and freshly minted grads will gobble up this voyeuristic trip inside an enclave of privilege.”—People