Help Yourself Before You Help Others
In Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld, the main character, Lee Fiora, faces the dilemma of being true to herself. Lee doesn't accept anything for what it is and usually overthinks the situation she is in. She is unsure of what she wants and what she does not want. This problem follows Lee throughout the whole book and affects her judgment of her surroundings. Slowly, Lee realizes her misjudgments are caused by her own self-uncertainty. By using Lee's insecurities to create unwelcome circumstances, Sittenfeld demonstrates how one's mind can twist a great experience into a pompous one.
Every chapter of the novel contains a learning experience in which Lee is faced with problems. In chapter four, Lee gains popularity through cutting other people's hair. At first, she liked the attention, but after a while she began worrying what others might think of her. Martha mentioned, "I think you cut people's hair, especially boys, as this way of having contact with them...."(145).
Lee let Martha's comment sink in too deep and allowed it to bring down her already low self-esteem. She finally decides to retire from hair cutting when she realizes she should be helping herself rather than others. Lee did not want to pick up after someone else when she was unable to even pick up herself like picking up hair after a client.
Although the book is packed with learning experiences, the amount of these experiences is overwhelming. The probability of an average teenage girl like Lee running into as many obstacles as she does seems too coincidental. This affects the whole novel and forms separation between the reader and Lee. The reader is unable to empathize with Lee because the number of problems she faces seems too unreal to be true. This glitch in Sittenfeld's novel is quite evident, but it can be easily ignored. The reader should accept Lee's constant run-ins with conflicts because the author jam-packed the novel with as many situations as possible for a purpose: to help readers understand a teenager's life as much as possible.