The Resource Prep : a novel, Curtis Sittenfeld

Prep : a novel, Curtis Sittenfeld

Prep : a novel
Title remainder
a novel
Statement of responsibility
Curtis Sittenfeld
During the late 1980s, fourteen-year-old Lee Fiora leaves behind her close-knit, middle-class Indiana family to enroll in an elite co-ed boarding school in Massachusetts, becoming a shrewd observer of, and eventually a participant in, their rituals and customs
Story line
Writing style
  • “The world was so big!” 17-year-old Lee thinks in wonder as she prepares to graduate from Ault, the tony East Coast prep school that provides the setting for this bittersweet coming-of-age novel. A scholarship student from South Bend, Indiana, the relentlessly introspective and self-absorbed Lee has always regarded herself as an invisible outsider, “one of the mild, boring, peripheral girls.” No wonder she’s astonished when the most popular boy in class shows up in her bedroom one night, and they begin an increasingly intimate affair that lasts throughout their senior year. It’s no surprise at all, however, that it should end badly. For the denouement, like so much else in this first novel, is simply too predictable. Saving the book from formula, however, are some fine writing and assorted shrewd insights into both the psychology of adolescence and the privileged world of a traditional prep school. -- Michael Cart (BookList, 12-15-2004, p709)
  • Adult/High School –When Lee Fiona arrives at Boston's prestigious Ault boarding school for her freshman year, she enters a world unlike anything she knew in South Bend, IN. "I always worried that someone would notice me," she says of her first bewildering weeks at the school. "And then when no one did, I felt lonely." This dilemma follows her throughout her four years. In her senior year, when she hooks up with star basketball player Cross Sugarman, she asks that he keep their relationship quiet. But she is appalled when she suspects that he has done just that. Sittenfeld has exquisitely captured the angst of the outsider in this fine coming-of-age novel. Lee is 24 when she recounts her boarding school history. Those few years' perspective give her an authentic voice that makes her sound less eccentric and more mainstream than Salinger's Holden Caulfield. Lee's world is peopled with the geeks and greats of the high school years–super-popular Aspeth Montgomery, who warns Lee away from a relationship with a townie; Aubrey, her math tutor, who professes his unrequited love; and enigmatic Cross, who initiates Lee into sex, but seems less than the full-fledged boyfriend she craves. Much more than stereotypes, Prep 's characters, in their depth and humanity, will appeal to readers, who will find themselves rooting for Lee despite her foibles and her insecurities. Her moments of self-doubt will reverberate with adolescents everywhere.–Patricia Bangs, Fairfax County Public Library System, VA --Patricia Bangs (Reviewed May 1, 2005) (School Library Journal, vol 51, issue 5, p169)
  • A self-conscious outsider navigates the choppy waters of adolescence and a posh boarding school's social politics in Sittenfeld's A-grade coming-of-age debut. The strong narrative voice belongs to Lee Fiora, who leaves South Bend, Ind., for Boston's prestigious Ault School and finds her sense of identity supremely challenged. Now, at 24, she recounts her years learning "everything I needed to know about attracting and alienating people." Sittenfeld neither indulges nor mocks teen angst, but hits it spot on: "I was terrified of unwittingly leaving behind a piece of scrap paper on which were written all my private desires and humiliations. The fact that no such scrap of paper existed... never decreased my fear." Lee sees herself as "one of the mild, boring, peripheral girls" among her privileged classmates, especially the über-popular Aspeth Montgomery, "the kind of girl about whom rock songs were written," and Cross Sugarman, the boy who can devastate with one look ("my life since then has been spent in pursuit of that look"). Her reminiscences, still youthful but more wise, allow her to validate her feelings of loneliness and misery while forgiving herself for her lack of experience and knowledge. The book meanders on its way, light on plot but saturated with heartbreaking humor and written in clean prose. Sittenfeld, who won Seventeen 's fiction contest at 16, proves herself a natural in this poignant, truthful book. Agent, Shana Kelly. (Jan. 18) --Staff (Reviewed November 1, 2004) (Publishers Weekly, vol 251, issue 44, p41)
  • In this readable coming-of age tale, Lee Fiora is an Iowa girl on scholarship at elite and private Ault in New England, where the stress of being an outsider magnifies the usual adolescent dilemma of uncertain identity. While there, she befriends Little, also an outsider as a black girl from Pittsburgh and the thief stealing money from dormitory rooms. During junior year, one of Lee's freshman roommates attempts suicide, and Lee has a secret sexual relationship with popular and handsome Cross, who never dates her and is indifferent to her in front of other students. When she is selected to talk about Ault with a reporter from the New York Times, she opens up under the reporter's seemingly sympathetic questioning. The article, quoting Lee, depicts Ault as dominated by a wealthy and snobbish clique, and Lee is further ostracized. But when she graduates, she discovers that there is a world outside of Ault. To interest adult readers, a novel like this needs something special: Holden Caulfield's voice, say, or the literary flair of Tobias Wolff's Old School . Here, events add up to little more than a familiar picture. Suitable for YA collections if mildly sexually explicit scenes are not objectionable.—Elaine Bender, El Camino Coll., Torrance, CA --Elaine Bender (Reviewed December 15, 2004) (Library Journal, vol 129, issue 20, p112)
  • A witty, involving boarding-school drama from Seventeen magazine award-winner Sittenfeld.Seduced by media depictions of glamorous boarding-school life, South Bend teenager Lee Fiora uses her straight-A average as a ticket out of her LCM (lower middle class, in prep-school speak) home, winning a scholarship to tony Ault. But once there, she's immediately the dorkey outcast, relegated to the company of the ethnics and the weirdoes. The rest could have been a standard nerd narrative, as Lee pursues the unattainably cool and gorgeous Cross Sugerman and finds an unexpected niche cutting hair for the popular kids. But Sittenfeld is too serious to let the story lapse into clichÉ. Instead of triumphing, her underdog is gradually corrupted by her frustrated social climbing. Lee's grades flag while she obsesses about being liked; Cross does finally come to her bed, but keeps it a shameful secret, using her only as an easy sexual outlet. While resenting the popular kids, Lee is too vain to court them, preferring to lurk resentfully in her room. When her loving but lowbrow family comes to visit, she tries only to hide them, sacrificing her parents for an elusive popularity. By the end, Lee's father has turned his back on her, remarking, "Sorry I couldn't buy you a big house with a palm tree, Lee. Sorry you got such a raw deal for a family." Her one close friend and roommate, Martha, serves as a foil. Beginning as an outsider like Lee, Martha finally becomes the senior prefect, generally liked for her straightforward kindness. As for Lee, we never lose sympathy for her, even when it becomes clear that it's not her classmates' snobbery but her own that isolates her. The boarding-school formula allows newcomer Sittenfeld the comforting slippers-and-ice-cream haven of chick-lit while allowing much more in the way of psychological insight.Teenaged years served up without sugar: a class act. (Kirkus Reviews, November 15, 2004)
  • Award/Notable book
  • New York Times Notable Book, 2005
Cataloging source
Dewey number
no index present
Literary form
Target audience
Curtis Sittenfeld
Prep : a novel, Curtis Sittenfeld
Control code
24 cm.
406 p.
Isbn Type
(acid-free paper)

Library Locations

  • Delaware Main LibraryBorrow it
    84 East Winter Street, Delaware, OH, 43015
    40.299672 -83.064923
  • Orange BranchBorrow it
    7171 Gooding Blvd., Delaware, OH, 43015
    40.190037 -83.027387
  • Ostrander BranchBorrow it
    75 North Fourth Street, Ostrander, OH, 43061
    40.267330 -83.216989
  • Powell BranchBorrow it
    460 South Liberty Street, Powell, OH, 43065
    40.149379 -83.073659
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