* Prices may differ from that shown
This is the story of Lee Fiora and her time at Ault, a prestigious boarding school. A small town girl who gets a scholarship, Lee constantly feels out of place in her new world and struggles to fit in and accept her self.
I initially found it quite difficult to to get into this book but gradually I got sucked in and then I couldn't put it down. At first I wasn't sure whether I liked Lee, but I came to realise that actually I have a lot in common with her and I really understand how difficult it can be to just be yourself sometimes. Lee sometimes thinks too much about things and there were times when I was reading that I wanted to tell her to relax, to be herself to realise that she is worth more than she thinks.
I found this book really engaging. There are some dark moments, some funny moments and also so actually quite emotional moments. Without spoiling anything, I loved the part where Lee confronts the boy she has feelings for. I felt quite choked up as she is honest about how she feels about herself but equally I was really pleased that she was saying what she thought.
This is a quirky but engaging read and is definately not a typical school story!
Whether you went to public or private school, most of us can recall stories from our school days. Whether it was five years ago or fifty they are always there, the memories good and bad.
Prep is the story of the school life of Lee Fiora. Lee is from South Bend, Indiana and is fourteen years old when she decides that she is worth more than her local public high school and applies to leave home for boarding school. To both her own and her parents shock and surprise Lee is accepted at Ault, a prestigious boarding school in Massachusetts on a scholarship. After some pleading with her parents, Lee heads off to what she imagines to be her dream school.
Lee quickly realises that there is more to Ault than the stunning grounds, grand buildings and beautiful chapel and that although it may look exactly like the pictures in the brochure that there was a lot more to Ault than meets the eye.
We follow Lee through her four years at Ault in some interestingly titled chapters of the book such as All school rules are in effect, assassin and kissing and kissing. She realises very soon into her time at Ault that nothing is going to come easy to her including friends, there was the roommates from first year who never really turned into friends Sin-Jun the quiet Asian girl who kept herself to herself and Dede the archetypal wannabe, who trailed around campus after the school's pretty popular girl Aspeth. That is until the second year when she meets Martha, a girl with a sense of humour as quirky as her own and things seem to brighten for Lee.
Is there a chance that with Martha by her side that Lee could come out from the shadows on the school and stop being what she refers to as a nobody? Will she ever get a chance with her high school crush the gorgeous, sporty and popular Cross Sugarman. (Yes the lad's name is Cross - I guess money can't buy you taste huh?) Most of all will Lee even managed to graduate from her dream school?
I found Lee a really interesting character to follow through this story, as the book is written from her perspective but there are the occasional times during the novel where the voice of Lee from the future provides her input, almost as if the story was being told looking back on her high school years from a time around ten years later.
I found myself relating very easily to certain things that Lee thought about and went through and it's that that really made Prep a great book for me. Curtis Sittenfeld really captured the essence of the teenage girl. Sometimes happy and laughing when out with friends but then when alone at home or in your dorm room wondering about how you are viewed by those around you. I liked the fact that although a lot of issues surrounding high school teens today were shown in the book it wasn't an over the top angst ridden account like some books I have had the misfortune to read in recent years.
Sittenfeld for me is one to watch and I am glad I stumbled across this in my local bookshop while on the hunt for something new. I will definitely be looking for her other books on my next trip.
Also if you are looking for a stocking filler for an older teenage daughter or even a daughter or friend of any age then this one is sure to make you a firm favourite in their eyes, and for those with teens this choice will definitely push up in the cool parent stakes.
PAGES - 478
ISBN - 9780552776844
PRICE - £7.99
** Also posted on ciao under my username Emsi **
Lee Fiora, from South Bend, Indiana is thirteen years old when she applies to boarding school. The dreamy idea of boys and girls in cashmere sweaters, brick buildings and lawns is a glimpse from a glossy brochure and a far cry from her local high school with its low academic results and peeling lino. Before she realises the impact of her daydream, she has been offered a scholarship to Ault School and begins life there at the age of fourteen, leaving her ordinary, noisy family far behind.
For me, this is a book that began beautifully. Her observations of her room mates, her wealthy peers and the rituals of formal dinner and chapel set the scene through to the release of white balloons at her senior graduation. Lee is thoughtful and intelligent and for the first three quarters of the book I could empathise overwhelmingly with her need to fit in and her teenage concerns. Time and again I read a page or two, stopped and thought to myself that there was no way anyone could write these events down without having experienced them first hand. The story seems so indescribably real and alive, the relationship with her parents told with a mix of love and embarrassment in only the way a teenager could.
Lee's parents accepted her decision to go to boarding school, but she says herself that this is not the same as believing it to be a good idea. The gulf between Lee on her scholarship and the fee-paying students is evident but not something to ever be spoken outright; talking about money is considered distasteful. It's not something she can avoid thinking about though, as she observes expensive pillowcases used for pranks, three thousand dollar laundry bills and clothes bought simply to wrap alcohol in. And it's not just the money and family status, which make her an outsider, but her loss of confidence.
She describes herself at home in South Bend as outgoing and bubbly, but her nerves at starting school change her. Perhaps Lee's observations themselves are the problem? I couldn't say for sure whether she judges others because she feels judged or whether it's the other way round. The parts of the book I enjoyed most were the ones where she is on the edge of joining in, where she experiences fleeting moments of recognition from the other students.
Further into the book, Lee's retreat into herself and resentment of others make for heartbreaking reading. My empathy with Lee faded to disagreement and I found myself willing her to pull it together. She believes her friend Martha to be someone close who cares enough to be honest, but I thought Martha boring and unsupportive. At times I even felt their friendship to be the very reason behind Lee's social demise. I longed for Lee to pick up her relationship with the students outside her insular little world and to become a participant for better or worse.
The overwhelming feeling that this book left me with was that Lee wasted her early teens. I realise that American High School students leave school later than those in the UK, that they can't legally buy alcohol until the age of twenty-one. I also realise that a posh private boarding school is doubtless a sheltered world and that this book is not set in the here and now. But even when I take these factors into consideration, I can't help but compare the drabness of Lee's life against the subdued fun of her counterparts at Ault, let alone the.underage clubbing, inappropriate boyfriends and general lifestyle of a modern British teenager.
My advice for Lee would be this; get angry with a boy who spurns you, dance and drink and shout. These actions are by no means everything in life, but introspection and contemplation, homework and a fear of making mistakes never made anyone truly happy. To behave badly for a few years is nothing against being sad and sorry for the things you never did.
This is an amazing book, especially if you regard the tinge of sadness as necessary for any coming of age story rather than a reason to cry into your bag of Maltesers. It's colourful and exciting and begging to be made into a film; totally deserving of the Orange Prize For Fiction award.