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Literature / Prep

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Prep is a 2004 Young Adult novel by Curtis Sittenfeld.

Lee Fiora is a shy fourteen-year-old when she leaves small-town Indiana for a scholarship at Ault, an exclusive boarding school in Massachusetts. Her head is filled with images from the school brochure of handsome boys in sweaters leaning against old brick buildings, girls running with lacrosse sticks across pristine athletics fields, everyone singing hymns in chapel. But as she soon learns, Ault is a minefield of unstated rules and incomprehensible social rituals, and Lee must work hard to find - and maintain - her place in the pecking order.


Tropes present in this novel include:

  • Alpha Bitch: Aspeth Montgomery, with Dede as her Beta Bitch.
  • Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: Lee views her parents this way when they visit her at the academy, as they don't grasp the subtle social politics that govern Ault. This is Played for Drama rather than laughs.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: Lee's extreme paranoia about being seen as doing something foolish, difficulty making friends, loneliness and habit if isolating herself, all speak of some kind of anxiety disorder, though she notes that back in Indiana she was a much happier, if more boring, person.
  • I Am Not Pretty: Lee herself, having this to say: "There were other things a guy could think I was, and he wouldn't be entirely wrong — nice, or loyal, or maybe interesting. Not that I was always any of those thing, but in certain situations, it was conceivable. But to be seen as pretty was to be fundamentally misunderstood. First of all, I wasn't pretty, and on top of that I didn't take care of myself like a pretty girl did; I wasn't even one of the unpretty girls who passes as pretty through effort and association. If a guy believed my value to lie in my looks, it meant either that he'd somehow been mislead and would eventually be disappointed, or that he had very low standards.”
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  • I Can't Believe a Guy Like You Would Notice Me: She harbours a crush on Cross Sugarman since her first year at Ault and when they start dating she doesn't understand why he likes someone as "unremarkable" as herself.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Lee's reason why she reports the dorm room thief when she realises it was her new friend.
  • Meet Cute: An unconventional one, but Lee first properly interacts with her crush, Cross Sugarman, when she goes to the nearby mall to get her ears pierced and ends up passing out, waking up to Cross asking if she's okay.
  • Misplaced Kindergarten Teacher: Ms. Moray is aware she's speaking to teenagers, but her attempts to act like she's one of them and as an authority figure at the same time make her students find her ridiculous and they often mock her behind her back.
  • Nice Girl: Martha Porter, who becomes Lee's best friend, is pretty much the most unequivocally nice person in the book and she even wins Valedictorian over the popular, wealthy Aspeth because of how responsible and kind she is.
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  • Preppy Name: All over the place, as you'd expect from a Prep School, so you have characters named things like Gates Medkowski and Cross Sugarman. Aspeth Montgomery probably takes the cake, though.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Lee, surprisingly, gives one to Cross at the end of the book.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: Ms. Moray tells Lee that she goes around Ault as an observer and never gets involved, but she thinks this is because Lee thinks she's "too cool" to participate and is disinterested in her classmates - Lee comments in her internal narration that she doesn't get involved because she isn't cool enough to and cares too much about what people think. Ms. Moray even believes that Aspeth and Dede want to be Lee's friend when they usually consider Lee and all scholarship students as beneath their notice.
  • Scholarship Student: Lee herself, and she notices many subtle differences between her own experiences of Ault and those of her more affluent classmates, including her best friend, Martha.
  • Shrinking Violet: Lee, which is a source of frustration to her as she notes that this only applies to her at Ault, she was a regular kid back in Indiana.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Almost everyone Lee knows give her this treatment after an interview is published where she seems to be insulting Ault academy and her fellow students, regardless of the fact what she says does hold some merit and she didn't know it would be actually published where everyone could see it.
  • You No Take Candle: Sin-Jun, which is understandable as she's still learning English.

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