Penelope
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Penelope

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2.72 of 5 stars 2.72  ·  rating details  ·  1,777 ratings  ·  430 reviews
When Penelope O'Shaunessy steps into Harvard Yard for the first time she has lots of advice from her mother. "Don't be too enthusiastic, don't talk to people who seem to be getting annoyed, and for heaven's sake, stop playing Tetris on your phone at parties." Penelope needs this advice. She is the kind of girl who passes through much of her life with coffee spilled on her...more
Paperback, 274 pages
Published August 7th 2012 by Vintage
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The Fault in Our Stars by John GreenDivergent by Veronica RothGone Girl by Gillian FlynnThe Light Between Oceans by M.L. StedmanPenelope by Rebecca Harrington
Best Books of Summer 2012
5th out of 43 books — 248 voters
The Secret History by Donna TarttFangirl by Rainbow RowellThe Marriage Plot by Jeffrey EugenidesI am Charlotte Simmons by Tom WolfeThe Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
Books About College Life
13th out of 75 books — 96 voters


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oriana
Get this book the fuck out of my life.

I made it through 80 pages—80 pages of aimless meandering, of uninteresting descriptions, of the worst, most stilted dialogue (she doesn't use any goddamn contractions in her dialogue!), 80 pages of wondering if the main character is autistic or just completely unrealistically obtuse, of waiting for something—ANYTHING—to happen.

And then I got to this:

"Isn't that kind of like Marathon Man or something?" She started laughing her silent laugh.
Penelope waited...more
Lincoln


Not sure why I invested the time to read this - the main character is more painful to follow than sticking needles in your eyeballs.
Alyssa
I went into reading this book with an open mind. Sure, I wasn't socially awkward and incapable of making friends in college, but I did have some issues that I had to adapt to and that is entirely what I expected of Penelope. I expected her to adapt. She didn't. She spends the entire novel getting steamrolled over by her "friends" and her mother--she never stands up for herself or disagrees vehemently with anyone, she just gives up and acquiesces, every SINGLE TIME.

I'm finding this disturbing the...more
PhobicPrerogative
"Brilliantly funny? Unique? Refreshing?"
Please.

It took me days to finish this book. I usually give up on books when 1/3 through nothing is happening, but for the life of me, I don't know why I kept coming back to this dud.

I'm convinced that there was something wrong with Penelope. Or was this book supposed to be satirical humour? Did I miss something?

She was a dull kid who had NO interesting quality about her, a girl who seemed to be a blank canvas and had no ideas of her own, a girl who let peo...more
Marla
I'm uncertain as to what this book was aspiring to be, and it read as if the author was as ill-equipped to answer that question as I was. It seemed to walk an uneasy line between satire and a more sincere novel, somehow succeeding as neither. I didn't find it incisive, witty or clever enough to qualify as a satire (or at least not an effective one), but nor was it nuanced enough to work as a resonant tale about a girl's transformative---or even moderately interesting---first year at Harvard. It...more
drea
Jun 22, 2012 drea rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone who appreciates quirky, smart humor
My college had its freshman orientation over one weekend in the summer, and they had it in waves according to where you fell in the alphabet. You showed up, took your placement exams, met with an advisor, planned your schedule, and then stayed in the dorms to socialize with soon-to-be fellow classmates. It was snack-sized college experence, in preparation for the big collegiate candy bar that, I assumed, would be chockablock with exciting Nuts of Life Experience. (If you are allergic to nuts, th...more
Jan
This is an enjoyable satire of Harvard and its Ivy League and uber entitled students. Penelope is a middle class oddball who recounts her freshman year at the big H. Penelope is completely out of touch with the elitist atmosphere of Harvard, whether it be academic or class elitism. She is a fish out of water and her mother is constantly nagging her to "join things" so she can find some friends. Penelope does connect somewhat reluctantly with some of her dorm mates and manages to get dragged in t...more
Abby
I really tried to like this book. Like Rebecca Harrington, I went to Harvard, studied history and literature, and worked on the Harvard Crimson. Plus, I loved the Veritas waffles depicted on the cover of this book (which the dining halls would serve every Sunday).

If you went to Harvard, you will read the book with pangs of recognition (the author refers to numerous Harvard classes, dormitories, and extracurriculars by name). But the characters are practically unrecognizable to me. Every characte...more
Stephanie
This review originally appeared at www.readinasinglesitting.com.

I used to run a blog called Misapostrophication. In large part it was a catalogue of the terrible ways in which apostrophes were misused, mostly by cafe owners who laboured under some sort of egalitarian punctuation ideal where every word had a right to an apostrophe. Now, having trudged through Rebecca Harrington's Penelope I'm of a mind to propose a systemic redistribution of apostrophes. I doubt very much that something like "fre...more
Jaclyn Day
The college experience has always been a popular premise for a lot of novels, but Penelope is one of the more clever and funny takes on it that I’ve read.

Here’s the publisher’s description:

When Penelope O’Shaunessy, “an incoming freshman of average height and lank hair” steps into Harvard Yard for the first time she has lots of advice from her mother: “Don’t be too enthusiastic, don’t talk to people who seem to be getting annoyed, and for heaven’s sake, stop playing Tetris on your phone at part...more
Ariana
Never judge a book by its cover. I saw the cover of this book advertised on Goodreads, which features a waffle with the Harvard insignia in the center, and thought it would be a fun, light read that would let me reminisce about my time at Harvard. Waffles in the dining hall were a special Sunday treat that my friends and I loved, and that memory motivated me to get this book from the library. Oh boy. I knew it was going to be bad after the first 10 pages, but I persevered.

Penelope is the most bo...more
Sarah (saz101)
First Thoughts:
I liked Penelope a lot. Sweet, funny and charming, Penelope has this delightfully oddball naivety, and she's a joy to read.


It’s not every day a book like Penelope finds itself in one’s hands – or mailbox. Accompanied not by a press release, but by a personalised note singing its praises and a double-sided page of gushing commendations from the staff of its Australian publisher, Penelope made grand promises, and charmed me from page one.

The Story:
Those of us who didn’t have our day...more
Patrice Hoffman
*Received through a goodreads giveaway*

Penelope is an allright novel. The word quirky kept flashing through my mind as I read it. The coming of age story about Penelope and her first year at Harvard. She's weird, ackward, and quirky. She's not cool and at times it's as if she socially has no clue. Initially Penelope just seemed to go with the flow of things. She wandered around aimlessly with the small circle she didn't even really like. And I think most people do that when they initially step o...more
Just Passing Through
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
ALPHAreader
Penelope O'Shaughnessy is a quirk of a girl; she still harbours her childhood crush on Hercule Poirot, prefers playing Tetris on her phone to social encounters, feels a spiritual kinship with Whitney Houston and knows Morse code by heart. It’s no wonder her mother is concerned that Penelope is now a freshman at Harvard; where she’ll have to share a dorm with other girls, make new friends and generally ‘interact’. . . so she gives Penelope the advice to be herself (but not too much).

Now Penelope...more
Jenny Brown
This was a light, fun read, a satire of life on the college campus. It's not a serious read, it's not going to make you ponder life's great lessons, but I found that I really connected with the socially awkward Penelope who never seemed to click with college life.

As a satire, the kids are extreme versions of themselves. Penelope is on one hand frustrating as she allows others to push her around, yet she's clearly an intelligent self-assured kid on so many other levels that she doesn't come off...more
Hannah Renowden
I picked up the proof of this book based purely on the Wes Anderson referencing quote on the back and ummed and ahhed and "Do I like it? Don't I like it?" for about a week. It turns out I didn't really like it and Anderson's name should be nowhere near it. The name, Zooey Deschanel, however, should be ALL OVER IT. In fact it should just be repeatedly printed over and over and over again on every single page until the book is full, leaving just enough space to end with "It should just be a Zooey...more
R.S. Grey
I loved this book. I realize that it is not for everyone, and I almost let the reviews deter me from reading it. If you don't appreciate dry humor, do not purchase this book.

I loved every character in this story because they represented the types of people that ACTUALLY EXIST. These were flawed, pretentious, self-involved individuals and at the end of the story you're left with the thought that maybe Penelope, who is meant to be the most awkward person in the entire story, is actually the only...more
Marikka
I'm sort of in love with this book. I even braved looking like a crazy person on public transit while reading this book. Although, perhaps it's more a comment on myself, but I'm not certain that Penelope is as awkward as others seem to believe. Sure, she's silly, insecure, and at the same time opinionated, but that hardly makes her any more awkward than any 18-year-olds I've ever known.

The humor is a bit on the dry side, and the character studies are rather dead-on, even if sometimes over the to...more
Everyday eBook
Aug 14, 2012 Everyday eBook rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Everyday by: Andrea Robinson
I don't remember the subject of my college application essay; if I had to hazard a guess, it was likely about overcoming something that probably didn't really need to be overcome, like long division. However, I don't think I will ever forget what Penelope O'Shaunessy wrote her college application about (a car seat), or the fictional character she has a crush on (Hercule Poiroit), or her favorite pastime at parties (playing Tetris on her phone). Because Penelope O'Shaunessy, the titular heroine o...more
Kara-karina
How can a book make you sad and feel so wonderful at the same time?

First of all, disregard the synopsis. It gives you a wrong impression of what to expect. Penelope is funny, sure, but it's also perversely non-conformist. I've looked at other people's ratings on Goodreads, and you're either love it or hate it, because people don't get it in the same way they don't get Penelope herself in the book.

Penelope is a freshman at Harvard and she is considered nerdy and weird, this one quiet, agreeable...more
Paula  Phillips
Are you sick of reading books about where the college students head off to College and are perfect and fall in love with hunky guys and all is merry with them as they skip along their ways ? Then you need to read Penelope which stars Penelope, a normal Plain Jane type of girl who is somewhat of a loner and doesn't know exactly what she wants from her life. Penelope follows well... Penelope through her freshman year of college at Harvard where she meets her roommates, gets hit on by several guys...more
Helen
I admit, the book itself was incredibly addicting; I completed it within a day. I do acknowledge the fact that Penelope is portrayed as a socially awkward, naive character. But by the end of the novel, I was literally counting down how many times Penelope replied with "OK"s and "I don't know"s, which turned out to be incredibly distracting. Is Penelope incapable of expressing emotion, or does she not have a personality altogether? I saw growth in neither Penelope nor any of the other minor chara...more
Katie
What was this? Who were these people? Was I not supposed to like a single character in the book? Because I didn't.

The author very rarely used contractions. It made the dialogue stilted, but in a really odd way. I couldn't tell if it was intentional or if it's an author affectation. Either way, it was distracting.

I found it odd that Penelope, who is the antithesis of a joiner and who doesn't seem to know what she likes and dislikes, could have even gotten into Harvard. I didn't go there, but it c...more
Lindsay Heller
You know when you get a new pop CD and you put it in and it's fun, it's catchy, and you can't seem to stop listening to it over and over again. But then you know you should probably listen to that new indie record that you've had your eye on for awhile. You know it will be quality music and mean something more than that pop CD you've been listening to on repeat, so you give the indie a listen and really like it, but then the next day you've the pop CD back in the player? This book is a little li...more
Agatha
This book has laugh-out-loud, funny moments that I really enjoyed. Apart from that, I felt disconnected with the whole story.

Penelope is right. She really is boring. She says weird things that I enjoyed at first and then got tired of it later. She's always pushed around! Why? She always resists and she never stands for herself. Through the course of the whole novel I thought that she would stand up for herself and grow a spine but she didn't grow. It's just like she's describing what happened to...more
Jess Archer
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Erin Shull
This is the perfect summer beach read. If you're looking for something with depth and meaning, this is not the book, but if you want a stylish quick reading that perfectly captures its main character's voice, this is the one. The book remined me a lot of the style of a Wes Andersen movie, with all the characters speaking in short, clipped, simple but witty sentences. Penelope is hopelessly confused and compliant in how she deals with her life and social interactions. She doesn't say what she thi...more
Justine
Ah Penelope, you had me at hello: with your Harvard stamped waffle on the cover* and your promise of unabashed, masturbatory nostalgia, how could I not read you? And with your first lines, you took me way back to 2002, to when I stepped on the Harvard campus (having never visited) and thought: well shit, this is pretty nifty.

Penelope, there are things about you that are delightful, though I fully admit they are only delightful for their reminiscent quality. I love that you describe the food that...more
Carrie
"Penelope, do you have a mental illness?" asked Lan.

Oddly enough, that was the same question I was asking myself while reading this book. For someone who is attending Harvard, Penelope seemed so simple-minded and incapable. It was as if she was so out of her own mind that she was missing out on the life around her. No personality, no initiative, no anything really. I feel I'm a socially awkward person myself, but compared to Penelope I'm a world class charmer. I still feel like I'm waiting for s...more
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Rebecca Harrington is a twenty-six-year-old writer living in New York City. She currently works at The Huffington Post and studied history and literature at Harvard and journalism at Columbia. Penelope is her first novel.
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“Springtime in Massachusetts is depressing for those who embrace a progressive view of history and experience. It does not gradually develop as spring is supposed to. Instead, the crocuses bloom and the grass grows, but the foliage is independent from the weather, which gets colder and colder and sadder and sadder until June when one day it becomes brutishly hot without warning...It was fitting, then, that the first people who chose to settle there were mentally suspect.” 4 likes
“Penelope did not understand how this [study] group was ever formed. It consisted only of her mortal enemies. However, these were things you seemed to put aside during exam period.” 3 likes
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