In January 2005, Prep
, the debut novel from a then 29-year-old Curtis Sittenfeld, hit bookstore shelves. The story of Lee Fiora's experience at Ault, a prestigious (and fictional) New England boarding school, struck a nerve with critics
and readers alike. It became a New York Times
bestseller, made several Best of 2005 book lists, and received a nomination for the Orange Prize. And, it made Sittenfeld an overnight literary star.
In the 10 years since its release, the novel still resonates with young women — and they often find a bit of themselves in Lee's story. The book manages to be equal parts achingly funny and brutally honest, and it captures so many of the struggles of adolescence.
Ahead, we asked four writers — Emily Gould (author of Friendship
), Jazmine Hughes (associate editor at The New York Times
magazine), Ruby Karp (a New York City high school freshman and writer at Hello Giggles), and Alexandra Polkinghorn (Refinery29's own director of editorial operations and a boarding school alum) to offer commentary on this contemporary classic. Then, we handed off their essays to Sittenfeld, to get her thoughts.
Each writer has her own unique high school story to share, but a couple of things unite them: appreciation for Sittenfeld's striking prose and an understanding of and empathy for Lee. Even though we each experience high school differently, Prep
somehow manages to capture the heart and soul of those four long and tumultuous years.