By Curtis Sittenfeld
Completed August 1, 2011
Lee Fiora decided at the tender age of 13 that she wanted to escape her hometown of South Bend, Indiana, and take part in an idyllic rite of passage – boarding school. Despite her parents’ lack of financial support, she applied to Ault School in Massachusetts and received a scholarship for her tuition. Prep is the story of Lee’s life as a boarding school student – an intriguing look at the socialization of high school students at a prestigious boarding school.
As a graduate of a small, all-women’s college, I found many of Lee’s experiences very similar: the traditions, hazing rituals, cafeteria food and dorm experiences all seemed like pages from my life history. Attending small, private institutions can be very alluring. Unfortunately, though, for many students, it can turn into a private hell.
High school is tough – the feelings of being left out, socially awkward and trying to second guess everyone’s motives weigh down most teenagers. Lee did all this and more. Lee was blessed with a wicked sense of humor but rarely showed it. She had a few good friends but remained aloof with most of her classmates. And when she finally gets the attention of her crush, Lee surrenders herself without a second glance. As I read Lee’s story, I commiserated with her plight as a scholarship student in a sea of wealthy kids but frowned at some of her mistakes. Sometimes, Lee was her own worst enemy.
And then I smiled, because that’s what being a teenage girl is all about: learning, growing and making mistakes. As Prep concluded, I knew Lee was a better person as a result of her Ault experiences. This story was a great reminder of the journey teenage girls take to become self-sufficient women. If you’re a mom to a young girl or a young woman yourself, put Prep high on your reading list. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed in this enchanting coming of age tale. ( )