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Publisher's Summary

An insightful, achingly funny coming-of-age story, as well as a brilliant dissection of class, race, and gender in a hothouse of adolescent angst and ambition.

Lee Fiora is an intelligent, observant 14-year-old when her father drops her off in front of her dorm at the prestigious Ault School in Massachusetts. She leaves her animated, affectionate family in South Bend, Indiana, at least in part because of the boarding school’s glossy brochure, in which boys in sweaters chat in front of old brick buildings, girls in kilts hold lacrosse sticks on pristinely mown athletic fields, and everyone sings hymns in chapel. 

As Lee soon learns, Ault is a cloistered world of jaded, attractive teenagers who spend summers on Nantucket and speak in their own clever shorthand. Both intimidated and fascinated by her classmates, Lee becomes a shrewd observer of - and, ultimately, a participant in - their rituals and mores. As a scholarship student, she constantly feels like an outsider and is both drawn to and repelled by other loners. By the time she’s a senior, Lee has created a hard-won place for herself at Ault. But when her behavior takes a self-destructive and highly public turn, her carefully crafted identity within the community is shattered.

Ultimately, Lee’s experiences - complicated relationships with teachers; intense friendships with other girls; an all-consuming preoccupation with a classmate who is less than a boyfriend and more than a crush; conflicts with her parents, from whom Lee feels increasingly distant - coalesce into a singular portrait of the painful and thrilling adolescence universal to us all.

©2005 Curtis Sittenfeld (P)2019 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

“Curtis Sittenfeld is a young writer with a crazy amount of talent. Her sharp and economical prose reminds us of Joan Didion and Tobias Wolff. Like them, she has a sly and potent wit, which cuts unexpectedly - but often - through the placid surface of her prose. Her voice is strong and clear, her moral compass steady; I’d believe anything she told me.” (Dave Eggers, author of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius)

“Speaking in a voice as authentic as Salinger’s Holden Caulfield and McCullers’ Mick Kelly, Curtis Sittenfeld’s Lee Fiora tells unsugared truths about adolescence, alienation, and the sociology of privilege. Prep’s every sentence rings true. Sittenfeld is a rising star.” (Wally Lamb, author of She’s Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True)
 

“In her deeply involving first novel, Curtis Sittenfeld invites us inside the fearsome echo chamber of adolescent self-consciousness. But Prep is more than a coming of age story - it’s a study of social class in America, and Sittenfeld renders it with astonishing deftness and clarity.” (Jennifer Egan, author of Look at Me)
 

What listeners say about Prep

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“Lee Goes to High School”

17 hours of no plot and no story about an unlikable teen girl being anxious around people and miserable to them. I have to admit I’m a little baffled as to why this book received any acclaim. The main character is at times highly identifiable in her social anxiety but is most often a shallow, self-obsessed, severely unlikable girl with no arc, no story, and no plot other than literally “Lee goes to high school.” Heap on top of that how desperate she is for a boy to like her and how she lets herself be used by him and she becomes as pathetic as she is irritating without ever getting beyond it or learning from it at the book’s abrupt conclusion. How is the book 17 hours long with no plot? It’s unending social observation and commentary of her classmates. Some people really enjoy that, but for me the author could have crystallized the jewels from this down to a short story and created something special. It’s a book about a girl who’s on the periphery of everything, and that could have been really clever, but it misses the mark (in my opinion) mostly by being so long about someone so miserable all while so little actually happens. The realism is the one area where this book really shines so if smeared snot and bowel movement metaphors are your thing, you will probably genuinely appreciate this book. The author creates a very real environment and nothing is taboo. She nails certain aspects of social anxiety, but not everyone who struggles with that is a rude and miserable wretch. The writing itself is solid but inconsistent and unexceptional. I never would have been able to finish it if I hadn’t been reading it for a group. Will definitely never again read something by this author. The narrator is good but a little slow, however if you speed her up to 1.25, she becomes excellent.

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Great story not as great production

This was a very engaging book, however the production was terrible. The first word of almost every sentence was cut off. It was hard to understand at times because sometimes that first word was important to the rest of the sentence. After about an hour of this I restarted the book in case it was something on my end. But the problem persisted and I just had to struggle through. This book took me longer than usual because I was so annoyed by the production that I didn’t stay as engaged as I probably would have been if that weren’t happening.