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Orange Prize shortlisted first novel by the phenomenal word-of-mouth bestselling author of American Wife, now republished in Black Swan
Curtis Sittenfeld is the author of the word-of-mouth bestseller American Wife. Her first novel, Prep, was a New York Times bestseller and was shortlisted for the Orange Prize. Her second novel was The Man of My Dreams . She is a graduate of Stanford University and the Iowa Writers' Workshop.
In this readable coming-of age tale, Lee Fiora is an Iowa girl on scholarship at elite and private Ault in New England, where the stress of being an outsider magnifies the usual adolescent dilemma of uncertain identity. While there, she befriends Little, also an outsider as a black girl from Pittsburgh and the thief stealing money from dormitory rooms. During junior year, one of Lee's freshman roommates attempts suicide, and Lee has a secret sexual relationship with popular and handsome Cross, who never dates her and is indifferent to her in front of other students. When she is selected to talk about Ault with a reporter from the New York Times, she opens up under the reporter's seemingly sympathetic questioning. The article, quoting Lee, depicts Ault as dominated by a wealthy and snobbish clique, and Lee is further ostracized. But when she graduates, she discovers that there is a world outside of Ault. To interest adult readers, a novel like this needs something special: Holden Caulfield's voice, say, or the literary flair of Tobias Wolff's Old School. Here, events add up to little more than a familiar picture. Suitable for YA collections if mildly sexually explicit scenes are not objectionable.-Elaine Bender, El Camino Coll., Torrance, CA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Adult/High School-When Lee Fiona arrives at Boston's prestigious Ault boarding school for her freshman year, she enters a world unlike anything she knew in South Bend, IN. "I always worried that someone would notice me," she says of her first bewildering weeks at the school. "And then when no one did, I felt lonely." This dilemma follows her throughout her four years. In her senior year, when she hooks up with star basketball player Cross Sugarman, she asks that he keep their relationship quiet. But she is appalled when she suspects that he has done just that. Sittenfeld has exquisitely captured the angst of the outsider in this fine coming-of-age novel. Lee is 24 when she recounts her boarding school history. Those few years' perspective give her an authentic voice that makes her sound less eccentric and more mainstream than Salinger's Holden Caulfield. Lee's world is peopled with the geeks and greats of the high school years-super-popular Aspeth Montgomery, who warns Lee away from a relationship with a townie; Aubrey, her math tutor, who professes his unrequited love; and enigmatic Cross, who initiates Lee into sex, but seems less than the full-fledged boyfriend she craves. Much more than stereotypes, Prep's characters, in their depth and humanity, will appeal to readers, who will find themselves rooting for Lee despite her foibles and her insecurities. Her moments of self-doubt will reverberate with adolescents everywhere.-Patricia Bangs, Fairfax County Public Library System, VA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
A self-conscious outsider navigates the choppy waters of adolescence and a posh boarding school's social politics in Sittenfeld's A-grade coming-of-age debut. The strong narrative voice belongs to Lee Fiora, who leaves South Bend, Ind., for Boston's prestigious Ault School and finds her sense of identity supremely challenged. Now, at 24, she recounts her years learning "everything I needed to know about attracting and alienating people." Sittenfeld neither indulges nor mocks teen angst, but hits it spot on: "I was terrified of unwittingly leaving behind a piece of scrap paper on which were written all my private desires and humiliations. The fact that no such scrap of paper existed... never decreased my fear." Lee sees herself as "one of the mild, boring, peripheral girls" among her privileged classmates, especially the Uber-popular Aspeth Montgomery, "the kind of girl about whom rock songs were written," and Cross Sugarman, the boy who can devastate with one look ("my life since then has been spent in pursuit of that look"). Her reminiscences, still youthful but more wise, allow her to validate her feelings of loneliness and misery while forgiving herself for her lack of experience and knowledge. The book meanders on its way, light on plot but saturated with heartbreaking humor and written in clean prose. Sittenfeld, who won Seventeen's fiction contest at 16, proves herself a natural in this poignant, truthful book. Agent, Shana Kelly. (Jan. 18) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
"The OC meets Donna Tartt's The Secret History with flashes of Clueless... Sittenfeld's strength is in making the experience feel universal...Everyone will wince with recognition at the horror of being a teenager. It's great to relive it all, now that it is happening to someone else." * Observer * "Straightforward, serious, funny...There is so much that is right about this book. Sittenfeld captures the hothouse atmosphere of boarding-school, the way you see even people you don't like in their underwear...Mostly, however, it's Lee's voice that makes all this worthwhile." * London Review of Books * "Curtis Sittenfeld shares with Salinger a knack of capturing, in effortless prose, a teenager mindset...It feels important...Most vitally of all, it feels like adolescence." * The Times * "You don't have to have attended an elite Massachusetts boarding school to find yourself reliving your adolescence in Curtis Sittenfeld's Prep...Even the Cross Sugarmans (major crush) and Aspeth Montgomerys (long legs, super popular) of this world will cringe with recognition at the book's fine-knit accuracy and detail." * Vogue * "Sweet Valley High as written by George Eliot. Sittenfeld is a pin-sharp observer, and in Prep she needles away at class, race and character...Prep will appeal to any age...A highly accomplished novel." * Independent on Sunday *