Rebecca Harrington, Author
Rebecca Harrington. Vintage, $14.95 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-0-307-95031-4
Reviewed on: 06/04/2012
Release date: 08/07/2012
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? Relatively plotless, the novel still works in a meandering, searching way. Penelope is sweet but socially awkward, and woefully prone to let little things spiral out of control—during a drunken dance, a boy kisses Penelope, “mostly with his incisors,” before vomiting on her shoes; and a favor for a roommate leads to a long-term commitment to a stage production of Caligula. While navigating the perilous social tides of the sea of her privileged peers, Penelope’s heart floats between Ted, whose romantic involvement with Penelope’s friend Catherine is ill-defined, and eccentric Gustav, who uses words like “darling” and “bourgeois,” and prides himself on being “as primed for disease as an Indian.” 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. Agent: Jane Finigan, Lutyens & Rubinstein. (Aug.)
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