PREP by Curtis Sittenfeld

PrepLee Fiora is a fish out of water.   No, wait.  She is a teenager out of her element.  Lee is fourteen years old and attending an exclusive prep school in Massachusettes, which caters to the children of the wealthy.  But Lee’s family is anything but wealthy.  They are solidly middle class in Indiana, where her dad runs a retail store of some kind.  She has a couple of brothers, and yearns for some new, bigger horizons.   She gets the idea to apply to a posh boarding school in the East, and even manages to get a full ride scholarship.   So far, so good.

Her parents aren’t thrilled, not seeing what is wrong with their life and the local schools, but loving her as they do, they agree to the plan, and do their best to support her by sacrificing in order to provide plane tickets and spending money.

But we all know where this is going, don’t we?  She arrives to find only a few other scholarship students,  only a few students of color,  and feels really out of place, an outsider who can never be part of the inner circle of the carefree and careless progeny of the monied class.  She doesn’t fit in.

But like so much teenage drama, a great deal of her issues are of her own making.  Having pre-decided that no one will want to bother with her, she isolates herself, doesn’t attend any of the functions, is silent in class, lowers her eyes when anyone tries to be friendly and talk to her, and sets herself on a course for a miserable, sad, lonely high school life.   But we, the readers, can see others reaching out to her, only to be rebuffed, so after a while, they give up.

She develops a mad crush on some semi-unattainable boy, finally makes a friend with whom she rooms for the last three years, but really, all we want to do is slap her around and scream “GET A FREAKING CLUE!”   I find teenage drama tedious and tiresome.  That’s why I don’t read much YA.   If it isn’t teenage angst, it’s the lone teen warrior saving humanity.  Bleh.

Anyway, back to this book.  Nothing much happens.  For four years.   The book is not really heavy on plot, but it is heavy on description and detail, which strangely enough, keeps you reading reading reading rather compulsively until you get to the end when we are offered one of those tie-it-all-together epilogs.

I liked it.  I didn’t LOVE it, because there is not enough substance to LOVE it, but there are episodes which explore the race, gender and socio-economic issues which make up for the ongoing, never-ending teenage stupidity factor.   I think most reaction to the book is either like it or hate it.   It was optioned for a movie.  I raised three kids.  I don’t need to live through teen drama on the screen.  I’ll pass on the movie date.




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