Penelope, by Rebecca Harrington
Reviewed by Rebecca Lyons
By Rebecca Harrington
Bright, funny and surprisingly thought-provoking, Rebecca Harrington’s debut is a brashly hopeful, lovingly constructed satire of academic life. Following a Harvard freshman, Penelope O’Shaughnessy, as she settles into her first year of college, the book brims with wit and charm, toeing the line between the delightful and the absurd with remarkable ease. Penelope herself is an endearingly awkward heroine who, in her dogged determination to make friends, increasingly winds up playing minder to a host of neurotic, pill-popping, overstressed supernerds. Both hilarious and cruel, these characters, with their cutting one-liners, often act simply to further Penelope’s nagging sense of loneliness. This ennui is nevertheless soon banished in favour of a good night out. Unlike her fellow students, Penelope is not overly fond of introspection, and nor is the novel, preferring instead to follow its leading lady from one bizarre party to another, all the while retaining a refreshingly optimistic outlook.