Is there a better setting to explore teenage angst, sexual frustration and friendship struggles than a Northeast boarding school? Probably not, which is exactly why Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld, published in 2004, affords us a shocking and at times depressing glimpse into the pretentious, hostile environment that Holden Caulfield knew all too well sixty years ago.
Sittenfeld – who was Zale writer-in-residence in 2006 – was raised in Cincinnati, but jumped at the opportunity to attend Groton School, a prestigious boarding school in Massachusetts that some believe serves as the setting for her debut novel. While Sittenfeld’s experience in New England may have been the impetus for her first published full-length project, she developed her talent as an undergraduate student in creative writing at Stanford University, followed by a stint at the Iowa Writers Workshop, where she earned her MFA. While at Stanford, Sittenfeld was chosen as a “Woman of the Year” by Glamour Magazine, but she wasn’t a stranger to national attention: she won Seventeen magazine’s fiction writing contest in 1992 – at the age, naturally, of 17.
Sittenfeld has published two more novels. The Man of My Dreams (2006) traces the path of a young woman, Hannah, as she negotiates high school and Tufts University. In 2008, Sittenfeld caused a stir with her critically acclaimed, best-selling third novel, American Wife, which is inspired, in part, by the life of then First Lady Laura Bush. Sittenfeld lives in St Louis, and is a regular contributor to NPR, as well as The New York Times and the Washington Post. Look for Prep on the big screen some time soon: Paramount Pictures have optioned the rights to the novel.