I spent most of my adolescence wishing I could escape my dull suburban life by attending boarding school. Like the book’s protagonist, Lee, I would spend hours looking over prep school admissions brochures and wishing I could be one of those teen-agers with fair-isle sweaters and long blonde hair. The thing about private schools that always squelched my interest though was the constant emphasis on sports. In public school gym was a joke and competitive teams were optional extracurricular activities, and that was worth something in my book.
Curtis Sittenfeld provides a psychological “escape hatch” for those readers (like me) who see too much of themselves in this tormented and insecure character – the entire story is told in retrospect. Lee, our narrator, is older now, well into adulthood and looking back at her high school experiences. However, we as readers acknowledge that the adult she is today is a manifestation of the girl she was then and the lens she uses to examine the past was initially developed during those years. Sittenfeld is brilliant at crafting dialogue and characters that resonate deeply to anyone who has ever been the odd one out or who has navigated the tricky road of an outsider wanting to be on the inside. I started reading Prep and couldn’t stop – and even though it left me emotionally exhausted and out-of-sorts in the end, I’m looking forward to her next book. Glutton for punishment right?
Sad insights include:
"I worried someone would notice me, and then when no one did, I felt lonely."
"And we matched each other well, our bodies fit. I didn’t know enough then to realize that doesn’t always happen – that sometimes you cannot settle on an angle with the other person, your weight won’t balance, your bones poke."
"…there are people we treat wrong, and later, we’re prepared to treat other people right."
"I've heard a thousand times that a boy, or a man, can’t make you happy, that you have to be happy on your own before you can be happy with another person. All I can say is, I wish it were true."