|Boarding School! [Goodreads]|
And so upon lusimeles's recommendation, I picked up this book by Curtis Sittenfield not only cause she thought it was up my alley, but because (not-so) secretly, I still harbor the boarding school fantasy of pleated skirts and boys in lacrosse teams (oh wait, that's my Gossip Girl fantasy).
The lead girl Lee Fiora was quite insightful in the way she told her story about going to Ault School, that at times it did remind me of Jessica Darling (from Sloppy Firsts) in a sense that they both felt a little repressed in their thoughts and so they had to spell it all out. They were vastly different though and of course there was no Marcus Flutie in this one.
There was however, a Cross Sugarman, the boy that haunted Lee Fiora's dreams and stay in Ault that when things finally come into fruition for Lee and Cross in the final chapters of the book, I should have felt extremely giddy for her, but I didn't. I guess what I wanted from this was more closure for Lee. I'm a sucker for the happy ending and though obviously it would have been highly unrealistic for Cross to grow up hot and awesome, I had to come to terms that yes, high school boys don't turn out as hot as they were in high school.
I like how they divided the chapters into her years in school. Though we obviously didn't cover everything, it feels like we saw the important and vital bits. We see her grow up from the timid and shy girl to a more outspoken character and one who because of the ONE TIME she let her guard down, would have to guard herself for the rest of her stay at Ault, and how she deals with the consequences.
I love how Sittenfield would introduce characters, friends of Lee, people that would affect Lee and change her. From Conchita -- her almost friend to her roommates Sun Jin and of course her best friend Martha (also co-prefect with Cross). It's crazy how real and distinct every character is from their names (all wealthy-ish) to their backgrounds (brought into Ault because they added diversity). It felt bad for Conchita and Sun Jin and yet I also wanted to be Martha -- to get Lee's approval.
What I really related to with Lee is how she sought so much approval from others. I didn't go to a boarding school but I feel this constant want for approval from others and her reasons for it were just so real and so unique to her and yet can be felt by so many others -- including me, I feel. That's why when she finally found Martha (despite having to go through Conchita for it), I felt a sigh of relief for her (and for me) that hey, if Lee found someone constant in her life, perhaps I can too.
The teachers and staff too were such vital characters in forming Lee into who she became. From her English teacher who didn't abide by Ault's codes of propriety to the Townie who Lee could have had something with if she didn't chicken out at the last minute, it all makes Lee's four year stay at Ault all the more colorful.
The part that I felt resonated with me most though was how Lee's relationship with her parents transformed and survived the separation and the guilt for going to a school she wasn't really sure about. I love how she had to deal with both parents differently and how her dad really gave her a piece of his mind during that one parent's weekend. I felt bad for Lee but at the same time, she needed it. I totally relate to the pendulum reactions of her dad and I like how we saw how their dynamics were so different and yet so relate-able.
So it's funny that despite my not having gone to boarding school at all, most of Lee's feelings/realizations really hit home with me. I don't know if this means I'm a repressed feeling boarding school student but it just felt like Lee was really speaking to me.
This makes me incredibly excited to read Sittenfield's other works, though I know they all got mixed reviews from critics. It's all good though, cause I enjoyed and got strangely nostalgic for my high school that wasn't nearly as eventful as Lee's.
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