Sunday, December 9, 2012

Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld

Please welcome Talli Roland, author of five novels - The Hating Game, Watching Willow Watts, Build a Man, Construct a Couple, and the newly released, The Pollyanna Plan - to review one of her favourite reads.

But first, a synopsis of Prep:

Lee Fiora is an intelligent, observant fourteen-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.

Talli Roland - Author Guest Review

Shortlisted for the Orange Prize and described by The Independent on Sunday as ‘Sweet Valley High as written by George Eliot’, Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld is one of my favourite reads. As soon as I finished this book, though, I was struck down with a bout of depression. This was the novel I wanted to write – a coming of age, funny, insightful book that made me nod on almost every page in recognition at the painful, awkward moments of trying to belong. Main character Lee Fiora escapes her small Midwestern town to attend an exclusive boarding school in New England. Despite not leaving the country, the two places seem worlds apart, and Lee struggles to reconcile her middle-class upbringing with the posh new environment in which she finds herself.
But Prep is much more than a study of clashing cultures. Not quite young adult and not quite chick lit, I believe this book will appeal to anyone who was a brutally self-aware teenager, constantly conscious of their place in the pecking order of the high-school world. Watching Lee grow and change – not always for the better – reminded me of the strong influence our peers have during that phase in our lives, and I couldn’t help cringing at the mistakes she made. The novel closes on Lee as an adult, and delivers an important message: we’re not teens forever (thank God), and nothing will ever seem as heightened or as important as it does during those adolescent years.
Prep is an engrossing, clever read that I can (and have!) read over and over again.

Thank you Talli! 

Talli Roland writes fun, romantic fiction. Born and raised in Canada, Talli now lives in London, where she savours the great cultural life (coffee and wine). Despite training as a journalist, Talli soon found she preferred making up her own stories – complete with happy endings. Twice shortlisted for the UK’s Festival of Romance, Talli's novels have also been chosen as Amazon Customer Favourites and top books of the year by industry review websites. She’s a bestseller in Britain and the United States. To learn more Talli, go to her website, follow her on Twitter, or check out her blog.

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  1. This sounds like just the sort of thing I'd like, thanks Talli! The premise reminds me a bit of the YA book The Daring Game by Kit Pearson.

  2. I haven't read Prep yet, but I did read one of Curtis Sittenfeld's other books, The Man of My Dreams. That's really good too, and I could relate to several parts of it. As you said in your review of Prep, it always helps if the reader can relate to what the characters go through; it also helps us understand the story better.



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