Prep (the book)

Has anyone else read Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld?

Did anyone else hate it?

Dude, I haaaated this book. More to the point, I hated the narrator. The narrator bugged the ever-living holy ghost out of me – never, in all my life, have I encountered a more whiny, morose, banal, boring, self-pitying, pathetic, and empty protagonist. We’re supposed to give a shit about this girl? Pray tell, why? She does nothing, she participates in nothing, she cares about nothing.

I only finished it because my roommate asked me to read it – and she loved it, so I don’t want to unleash my ire upon her and ruin something she enjoyed.

And to be fair, the author did a fantastic job of creating a truly believable world in Ault School, and she has a clear and accurate writing style which I enjoyed (i.e., she has a good amount of talent when it comes to crafting a sentence). All the in-jokes and rituals in this boarding school world seem dead-on, and I commend her for that. The other characters rang true – I wish to God we had been following one of them.

There was just no there there, when it came to the narrator. She had no interests, nothing seemed to excite her except getting a nod of recognition from the Hot Guy, she had no vitality, no life! Hell, I wasn’t popular in high school and I was depressed during most of my adolescence, but I cared about things! Music, art, literature – these were my solace. Shoot, I recently discovered my 10th grade diary, and (embarrassingly dorky as this is, I’ll tell you: ) there are pages and pages of me going on and on about The Cure and Depeche Mode (Depeche Mode! :smack: ) and Erik Satie, and how much I adored them. My parents might not have been able to get a smile out of me, but inside my own thoughts, there were all sorts of passions drawing my attention and energy.

This girl has nothing. And anyway, she’s not supposed to be clinically depressed…she’s supposed to be a girl who merely feels left out and self-conscious and just wants to be noticed. So, like, what is it about those things that should preclude having a personality, even if she only keeps it to herself? Huh??

Oh, here’s a passage for a taste. Set-up: she’s been letting the Hot Guy use her for sex (passionless, cold-and-clammy, icky sex) and she FINALLY decides to say something to him about it and let him know that she’s not happy, and halfway during her confrontation, he turns the conversation around to her and says:

…Flattered? FLATTERED? W.T.F. And no, dumbass, you weren’t practicing anything – I’ve just been inside your thoughts for your four years of high school, and you cared about nothing but your fruitless quest for popularity. Nothing! BAH.

And what’s worse, what’s even worse, is that the narrator is supposed to be a grown woman, at least in her late 20s, looking back on her boarding school years. You’d think this would lend some sort of compassion or – I don’t know what I’m trying to say – you’d read some kind of comment once in a while of recognition and understanding of how silly and trivial her teenaged fears were. But: no. No. No.


Read this girl’s Amazon review (second one down) for a much more eloquent version of what I was trying to say.

God, it feels so good to vent.

I read the book, and understand how you feel.
The book was a little long, Lee’s character feels too passive. The reader wants a bit more resolution, perhaps a bit more reflection.
I am over 50 and likely am a lot more removed from that time than you probably are, gallows fodder. (Rather than The Cure or Depeche Mode, I wrote pages about The Doors or Led Zep.)
I can look back fairly dispassionately.
Socially, I was probably almost as pathetic, self-conscious, as utterly paralyzed as Lee. But she goes one further:

  • “It had begun to rain outside,” she notices early on, “and on the circle, a bunch of boys were playing football, slipping and rolling in the grass. Listening to their cries, I felt a familiar jealousy of boys. I didn’t want what they had, but I wished that I wanted what they wanted; it seemed like happiness was easier for them.” *
    This girl really had nuthin,’ but some young people actually are like that; they have nothing and noone to identify with–but they know it’s out there somewhere.
    Having some distance from that time made it easier for me to plow through seemingly endless grim teenage experiences described in such a non-judgemental fashion.
    But I know what you mean; at the end, after all those spot-on vignettes, that expertly written dialogue, what little climax and/or summing up there is feels wanting.

Oh, I know some people really have nothing, but why on earth would someone choose to write a book about them? And one that completely justifies their low self-worth? Yes, Lee, you really are a boring pathetic loser.

I want those hours of my life back.

Just chipping in with my opinion after having just read it (and used the search function to see if there was any thread in the data base).

I didn’t find her passivity as furiating as much as her letting herself be used by the popular guy.

But the book’s atmosphere regarding the high school milieu et al was just so spot-on that I let myself go along. It could drag in parts, but the narrator also had a lot of very well-expressed (if flawed, due to her age and how inexperienced people can be led to think) thoughts and ways of expressing herself. And as you said, there are other interesting characters to make up for what the narrator herself is lacking. Isn’t that the point after all?

I enjoyed the book, but not Lee’s character, even though she was believable and well-written. Although I was never that passive, I was often unsure of myself socially and convinced that other people were having a much better time than I was. Lee hit a little close to home for me, and that was uncomfortable.

(I did want her father to slap the ever-loving snot out of her when he came for Parent’s Weekend!)

I loved this book, because I identified so closely with Lee, and her prep school experiences reminded me of mine as a middle class person at an elitist university.

The part that made me sympathize was that she spends all her time trying to be what she thinks other people want her to be, and trying to figure out what “normal” people are all about.

I didn’t understand why, given that, that she felt OK cutting people’s hair; I would have been too afraid to mess up and have them hate me.

And I totally understand her giving it up to the guy she likes; she takes what she can get and feels lucky getting it. I certainly did that.
But I can understand that if you don’t see yourself in that person you wonder why you are following her around and seeing what she’s up to.