This is a stunning novel in the great tradition of American coming-of-age novels from "Catcher in the Rye" to "The Secret History". Lee Fiora is a shy fourteen-year-old when she leaves small-town Indiana for a scholarship at Ault, an exclusive boarding school in Massachusetts. Her head is filled with images from the school brochure of handsome boys in sweaters leaning against old brick buildings, girls running with lacrosse sticks across pristine athletics fields, everyone singing hymns in chapel. But as she soon learns, Ault is a minefield of unstated rules and incomprehensible social rituals, and Lee must work hard to find - and maintain - her place in the pecking order.
In Curtis Sittenfield's character of Lee Fiora, she has successfully managed to bring to life the intensity of passion and uncertainty that you experience during the transition from childhood to adulthood.From the moment that you join the story, within a month of Lee having started at Ault boarding school, you immediately get a sense of her lack of self-worth and her desperation in trying to find some way of fitting in with those around her. The strengths in this book, for me, lie in the portrayal of a very typical teenager. One who believes she is completely out of synch and different from those around her, but ultimately realising that in many ways it's ok to be different.The author has created some interesting observations centred around class structures, race and gender issues but taken at face value, this is a very enjoyable account of a teenage girl's experiences at a school for privileged young people.