What's All This Then?

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What's All This Then?

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Tuesday Edition

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Coudal Partners

by Curtis Sittenfeld

Field-Tested by Jill Jaracz

on a bus in Chicago, Illinois

I have a problem with buying books and not reading them. They sit around on bookshelves gathering dust until I finally break down and see if anything I chose was good.

One of these books was Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld. I had seen it in the bookstore, sitting among the stacks of recommended paperbacks, read the back cover, and had to have it. Now.

The main character Lee Fiora was from Indiana. I was from Indiana. Lee attended a prestigious private prep school. I have a thing about upper crust East Coast existence. This was definitely the book for me. I bought the paperback in 2005. I read it in 2007. In fairness, it got moved to the front of my book line fairly quickly. I’ve had other unread books for much longer.

Prep was my bus reading for a week or so. I was instantly mesmerized with Lee and the way she wasn’t like most other kids in her prep school. She was the one who wanted to go to the private boarding school, but the adjustment was difficult for her since she wasn’t the traditional sort of student. I could identify. I went to a private religious school, but I was one of the few people from the non-majority religion, which at times was pretty awkward. After graduating, I bucked tradition and didn’t attend one of the standard religious colleges. Instead I went to a state school, where like Lee’s experience at prep school, I didn’t know anyone. I had to find my own way, along with finding myself. Although I wanted to yell at Lee at times to just join a couple of clubs and get to know more people, I understood how it took time for her to come into her own, just as it took me a long time to make friends, join groups, and come into my own.

Reading on the bus is one of the joys of taking public transportation, and when you have a good book, you don’t mind being stuck on Lake Shore Drive or crawling down LaSalle Street toward a job you don’t like, a job that will slowly suck more life out of you throughout the day like an IV drip. When I read Prep, I was so caught up in the story that, every once in a while, I’d suddenly jump and look up to make sure I hadn’t missed my stop. Time ceased to matter and the rest of the world was no longer important, as long as I had this book’s world where I could escape to and let my imagination go. I’d come into my own eventually.

Jill Jaracz is a Chicago-based writer who has written for Not For Tourists, Mint Magazine, and BeerDorks. She can be reached at her website.

Buy Prep