Penelope by Rebecca Harrington

On a rainy day recently, I took shelter in Waterstones. Something about ‘Penelope’ caught my attention. Penelope is one of those ‘coming of age’ novels. It follows the awkward, but mostly likeable, Penelope throughout her first year at Harvard University.  Penelope is a quirky character who taught herself Morse code, plays Tetris on her phone during uncomfortable situations and once attempted to read a book at a party. She is a bit clueless about her classes, homework and exams (so much so that you do wonder how she got to Harvard in the first place!). Penelope often seems out of place among her intensely ambitious peers, as it seems that most of the time she is unsure what is happening around her.  She is highly agreeable and ends up saying yes to things she doesn’t really want to do, such as acting the part of a silent guard in a school play to please her not-so-friendly room-mate.

Penelope made for an excellent main character, and I enjoyed reading about her interactions with fellow students. I also enjoyed the setting of the book. There were so many little details throughout that I could relate to my own university experience, and that made me reminisce and smile. I like this quote which is definitely relatable!

-‘Each class sounded sort of interesting until you went to it. Then you realize that you would rather be watching a light show’

Penelope was a lovely novel, but if I had any criticisms or slight irritations, it would be that some of the characters were a tad one-dimensional and annoying, such as Lan and Gustav. It was often hard to understand their appeal to Penelope. Gustav, for instance, was supposed to be the ‘love interest’ for much of the book, but it was almost impossible to understand why. To me, his character and the dialogue he was given seemed really forced.

Despite issues with some of the characters, I found ‘Penelope’ an enjoyable book and devoured it in two sittings.

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