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Penelope (Vintage Contemporaries) Paperback – August 7, 2012
Intrusion: A Novel
A loving couple, grieving the loss of their son, finds their marriage in free fall when a beautiful, long-lost acquaintance inserts herself into their lives. Learn More
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“Unique . . . refreshing . . . It is this sincere depiction of a quirky quasi-misfit in a world of pre-law go-getters and trust-fund kids that renders Penelope not only a satire of the Harvard world, but also a sincere portrayal of an average kid.” —Shannon Draucker, The Dartmouth
“The quirky, titular character of the novel is hilarious, loveable, and perfectly imperfect (and mercilessly deadpan). Harrington manages to balance snarky and sarcastic observations with genuine truthfulness about the college experience. . . . Penelope brilliantly satirizes (and, on occasion, skewers) the various ‘typical’ students you meet in college and the trappings of academia. The supporting characters, particularly Lan, are fabulous (the hairy, hairless cat plus the t-shirts equals genius) and many of the social observations are spot on (the less than cool party you still attend to be at a party . . .). This remarkable debut is one that will stick with me for a long time to come. How could I forget a narrator who proudly wrote her college entrance essay on a car seat? The answer, not easily. . . .[A] charming, disarming, witty debut from a writer who cleverly captures the social absurdities many of us experience in the awkward transition from adolescent to adult. . . . If Zooey Deschanel were a novel, she would be Penelope. (This is a compliment.)” —Rory O’Connor, Examiner.com
“Penelope will keep you laughing . . . This tale of a hapless freshman’s bumpy assimilation into college life recalls the neurosis of Bridget Jones—in a good way.” —Angela Mantano, Campus Circle
“It’s rare to find a novel that makes the reader laugh on every page, and Rebecca Harrington’s debut novel delivers this promise. . . . Penelope delivers a story packed with humor that will entertain readers from cover to cover.” —Sara Ermish, Indigest Magazine
"In Harrington’s telling, Harvard’s confluence of overprivileged climbers, antisocial geniuses, hyperambitious strivers, and hopeless geeks results in a special breed of dysfunction. . . . As the novel’s characters anxiously chatter about Lloyd Blankfein, Thomas Pynchon, the Harvard-Yale game, and housing arrangements, Harrington invites their mockery. In Penelope’s depiction of Ivy League . . . the comedic payoff is high." —Mythili Rao, The Daily Beast
“Penelope is one of those novels that’s more than entertaining enough to take to beach but can still dazzle you with its wit and razor-sharp intelligence.” —Stephan Lee, Entertainment Weekly
“Dotted with classical literature in-jokes, Penelope is a clever read about the absurdity of the Ivy League experience: the hookups, the all-night ‘pregaming’ and the waffle irons branding the college crest on students’ breakfasts. . . . . [Penelope] never abandons her dorky core in favor of Harvard manners. As in the classic campus novels Harrington references, virtue is rewarded and the villains get their comeuppance.” –Rebecca Finkel, Metro
“Penelope is quite a gal, and one with very much her own voice.” –Ann LaFarge, Hudson Valley News
“Rebecca Harrington’s irresistible debut novel, Penelope, follows its plucky, doe-eyed heroine through her tumultuous freshman year circa the 20-aughts at Harvard.” —Lisa Shea, ELLE
“Harrington’s debut is a wryly funny bildungsroman chronicling the titular character’s freshman year at Harvard, and all the supplementary standard collegiate fare—drunken parties and regrettable hookups, pretentious extracurriculars, friends with and without benefits, an incessant pressure to succeed, and the #1 question: Who am I? . . . Penelope’s candidly deadpan neuroses provide plenty of humor, and while the well-off kids of Harvard Yard might seem too aloof, in Harrington’s hands they’re entertaining company.” —Publishers Weekly
“Debut author Harrington, herself a recent Harvard grad, is well equipped to lead readers behind the ivy-covered walls . . . [Penelope] comes into her own through deadpan oneliners and witty repartee. . . . [A] clever parody of Harvard pretentiousness.” —Booklist
“A debut novel that is refreshing, pleasantly absurd, and highly addictive. Penelope is a character who would describe herself as awkward and forgettable. Awkward: yes. Forgettable: absolutely not.” —Kaui Hart Hemmings, bestselling author of The Descendants
“Quick-witted and sharply observed, Penelope transported me right back to my freshman year dorm room and made me nostalgic for dining hall waffles and shots of Peppermint Schnapps. Every page of this hilarious and charming book made me laugh out loud!” —Jennifer Close, bestselling author of Girls in White Dresses
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Top Customer Reviews
Despite the cliche, I've found that judging books by their covers is usually a rather accurate method of choosing what to read. However, in the case of Penelope, I should have listened to my second-grade teacher. Like other reviewers, I was drawn in by the appealing cover image and enticing summary of this book. But as I read on, I found myself becoming increasingly disappointed.
Penelope herself, ostensibly our heroine, has very little personality and is not really likeable at all. At times she is maddeningly stupid. The rest of the characters are no better, and would be more suitably referred to as caricatures: Penelope's roommates, the Overachieving New Yorker and the Rebellious Loner; a flock of Loserish Boys Who Drink Too Much In Hopes Of Being Cool; the Handsome Rich Boy Who Is Actually A Jerk; the Shallow Bubbly Girl, etc.
And it's not as though there's really much of a plot to lean on. There are no revelatory moments, no hard-won victory (or even crushing defeat) by the book's end. The writing style is beyond stilted, as though English is not Ms. Harrington's native language, and she used an online translator and a thesaurus to come up with much of her text. I finished the book angry: at myself, for having wasted my time, but even more so at Rebecca Harrington for having written Penelope in the first place. I truly, truly have no idea how this was published.
Secondary characters all have their quirks and are generally not likeable, perhaps existing as exaggerated archetypes of the students you might recall from your own college or university days. Predictably, Penelope gets involved with a highly unsuitable boy, while the obviously suitable one ends up dating someone else.
That the characters themselves seem so obtuse and unaware of what is going on around them doesn’t ring true. Not much happens in this book, which can pretty much be summed up as “socially inept woman attends Harvard, sleeps with a heartless cad and acts in a terrible play”. We follow Penelope from one snatch of stilted dialogue to the next, all the while silently yelling for her to get a life.
Granted, there were points in the story when I found myself vaguely amused at the author’s observations of life at Harvard, but then Penelope’s floundering became tiresome again. Eventually, when she gets a little spine near the end, it’s not with any earth-shattering Oprah-worthy “A-ha” moment.
In conclusion, I’m not quite sure what the author was trying to achieve. The book switches between satire and sincerity, so that at its close it comes across as an uneasy and somewhat lukewarm mixture of the two.Read more ›
But as I got further into this clever satire, this all changed. All of these crazy situations, people, teachers, and classes really say a lot about today's college experience. While it is a satire of Harvard life, it could almost be set anywhere. Between the people always begging their legacy parents to bail them out, rich people just there to party, crazy artists whose work makes no sense, and not to mention relationship weirdness this book wonderfully makes fun of all that is the college experience. While at first I found Penelope's dialogue off-putting, I soon fell in love with her awkwardness and how she was always on the outside looking in.
My only quam with this book was how Penelope was someone who in real life could not have possibly been admitted to Harvard. I'm sorry, but it's just not possible. While I understand that it was essential to have someone completely on the outside of the satire as the narrator to convey the point, it still felt very unrealistic.
Especially as a college student myself, this book was a very enjoyable joke on all things Ivy League.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a really, really brilliant novel. Harrington absolutely skewers the absurdity of Ivy League life and nails the awkwardness of college students posing and impressing each... Read morePublished 1 day ago by Roger
This is a very unique book. Its not chick-lit or a college tell-all - instead it's a painfully accurate, very funny look at what goes on inside one girls' head during her freshman... Read morePublished 17 days ago by eleanor j burgess
Existential. Interestingly reminiscent of various times in my life, a novel about college definitely not for those currently in it.Published 1 month ago by H365
This book found a way to touch me deeply. I am looking forward to leaving for college this year and Penelope brought me such comfort. Constant smiles at each character. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Nancy Gamble
Occasionally there may be amusing satire here, but I find it impossible to appreciate a book that is basically about a (supposedly) clueless woman being successfully exploited by... Read morePublished 8 months ago by EMB
I loved this book. I think this is my first time writing a review on Amazon but when I saw how low the rating was for this book I was shocked. Read morePublished 10 months ago by victoria
Undoubtedly the most awkward, boring, and cringeworthy collegiate novel (or any novel at all) that I've ever read. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Christin M. Mulligan
I read this strange and wonderful book in a day. I understand some of the reviews citing the cover as misleading. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Ali