Two major accomplishments in the last 24 hours:
1 - I finished putting together a 3000 piece jigsaw puzzle of an underwater seascape (that's right, 3 thousand. Be sure to roll the "r" when saying the word "three.") . Here is a list of things I have "watched" (i.e. listened to and occasionally glanced up at) while completing this masterpiece: Almost all of Season 1 and 2 of Rome; P.S. I Love You (although, I had to stop doing the puzzle halfway through because I was crying so much); the 5-hour version of Pride and Prejudice; A Knight's Tale; 27 Dresses; Captain Ron; Beauty and the Beast; The Little Mermaid; Ever After; American Beauty; High Fidelity; and probably more that I can't think of. I felt I deserved a medal - or to at least watch something with my full attention, so tonight I watched the first two episodes of The Tudors while doing nothing more than drinking a cup of heavily sugared tea (I believe in England they would describe is as being flavored with 4 lumps.) Life is good.
2 - I finished "reading" Prep while driving to work. I've been listening to it on the hour-long drive both to and from work every day for the past week and a half. At 15 CDs, I'm actually suprised that I finished it as quickly as I did.
It is the story of a young girl who, at the age of 13, informed her parents that she wanted to go to boarding school. She did her research, applied to, and was granted a scholarship to Alt, a very elite prep school near Boston. Of course, when she gets there she feels terribly out of place among the "Bank Boys," and snobby girls with amazing wardrobes and flowery beadspreads. She spends most of her time observing others and trying not to be "wierd." Therefore, she misses out on all the good stuff about high school, while suffering more than her fair share of th ebad stuff.
In addition to struggling socially, she stuggles to keep up with the vigorous course schedule. While she was a star student at home in South Bend, Indiana, she certainly does not excel at Alt. She even almost fails math. Eventually something happens that makes her wake up and realize how she's been spending so much time observing others and being clueless that she has made a mistake from which she's not sure she'll ever recover.
I liked the book almost immediately. I liked that the narrating character was so introspective, and I identified with her. I too spent a lot of time in school watching the cool kids and trying not to embarass myself in front of any of them. As a result I missed out on a lot of opportunities to have fun and make memories. As the book goes on, though, I became annoyed with her whining and her fear and especially her self-consciousness. Then she messed up, and I felt like she deserved what she got.
This is absolute proof that Curtis Sittenfeld has written a truly complex, human character. This is not a fairy tale. There are no action scenes (though the scene where she loses her virginity is pretty action-packed!), and there are no plot devices. It is simply the story of a girl growiing up - only she grows up on her own and without the benefit of having her family nearby. It is for this reason that I eventally decided that I liked the novel.
The descriptions are well written, and the meanings are clear. I could picture the school, the dorms, and the characters, and I could relate. That a teenager complains a lot and is full of insecurities is no surprise. That I got annoyed and frustrated with her is also no surprise. That the author has done his job, however, is. And he's done it well.
Read it - If you are into high school drama stories.