an author gets a certain amount of points when they really pound away at their work, especially with the MFA free-fire zone, and so every sentence is constructed bang-on to build to greater and greater effect. this is something highly refined about the first third, at least, of Prep, and I can easily imagine 200-fire breathing classmates at Sittenfeld's MFA program burning down line after line and word choice excess after excess until you have the spare, absolute-required words of this debut book.
*but*, sometimes you read a book and though the author tries to hide it, you can tell they're somewhat contemptuous of humanity. of course, they have to produce a work, they must write something, they can cloak it to some degree, but every so often the mask slips, and their true feelings about the human race are revealed.
the problem is that humanity, so to speak, is all there is. we can't really have a literature about lichen growing on rocks or herrings swimming the ocean. every book, whether set in the 33rd century of Alpha Centauri delta-space under Space Emperor Rama XV is still ultimately a book about human beings, ditto the Louis XIV period piece, the Heian-era Lady Murasaki kimono and sheltered women japonerie (japanoploitation?) work, or even some sort of construction of stone age barbarians fighting reptilians overlords.
as Sittenfeld despises human beings, ultimately the book fails in a holistic sense, and so between the stylistic minimalism and the over-arching collapse, 3/5 seems a fair compromise. the book is readable but I threw mine away.