Prep is Lee Fiora’s story, told as a woman in her 20’s looking back on her high school years. Teen-aged Lee is enamored with the boarding-school life that is far from her South Bend, Indiana roots. She begs to apply and is surprised when she is accepted to Ault in Massachusetts. Lee has second thoughts, but the promise of a scholarship erases the last excuse she has for remaining in Indiana.
Curtis Sittenfeld’s impressive first novel follows Lee during her four years at Ault. She makes her way as a scholarship student among wealthy peers. This story is similar to Tom Wolfe’s backwoods-girl-goes-to-college tale I am Charlotte Simmons, though Sittenfeld’s stereotypes are less forced.
Lee makes a few friends, meanders through academics and grows apart from her family and their Midwestern ways. It may not have been intentional, but Ault’s reception of Lee is the same way she is perceived by readers. She’s likable, but not quite living up to her potential. This is by no means a criticism. It’s difficult to put readers and characters on the same page.
Revealing more of Prep would just take away from the enjoyment of the story. It makes a good vacation book, because it’s easy to read in large chunks. Sittenfeld won Seventeen’s fiction writing contest as a sixteen-year-old in 1992. Prep is a great debut and a convincing argument that Curtis Sittenfeld needs to write more fiction.