Sittenfield, Curtis. Prep. Random House, 2005. ISBN 978-0812972351. 448 pp. $14.00
A coming-of-age story told by a Midwestern girl attracted to the idyllic New England boarding school life by the glossy catalogs. Through her detached observations as she longs to belong to the culture at Ault, Lee discovers it’s not so different from school back home–she is the loner who doesn’t quite fit in here, either.
Prep follows our heroine through such high school rites of passage as unrequited love, struggles with algebra, and a friend’s suicide attempt, with an undramatic matter-of-factness that is refreshing and believable. And no matter what Ault throws at her, Lee remains steadfastly her complex self throughout.
Don’t let the cute pink & green belt on the cover fool you–the story is classic and funky, but not neat or pretty. Sittenfeld deflty weaves issues of class, race and ethics throughout this fish out of water story. Her tangible details of the dining hall, a boy’s room, the nearest mall are so evocative the pages reek of New England private school.
Some fast-forwarding to the future in spots jars the reader into thinking this is a narrative, but the voice, consistent and authentic and wonderful, makes it a forgivable flaw. Recommended for A/YA collections for mothers and daughters to fight over.