Sitting in the dining hall with a random collection of dormmates can feel uncomfortable. You have nothing in common. As it turns out, these people were not meant to be your friends. But it sure beats the alternative: the ever so dreaded sitting alone.
26-year-old author Rebecca Harrington captures this awkward feeling in her first novel “Penelope,” the story of a freshman at Harvard. Her main character Penelope lives in a dorm of overachieving misfits. Even worse, her two roommates have polar opposite personalities, leaving Penelope somewhere in the middle. Emma is on the fast track to success, climbing the social ladder into the best sorority, leading the school play and manipulating her way to a 4.0 GPA. Her other roommate, Lan, is a nonconforming closet math-genius harboring a cat.
Penelope feels clueless compared to everyone else — they seem to possess the secret calendar to all social events, the expertise on classes and clubs and the ability to form friendships.
Harrington paints a very humorous and fairly true-to-life college experience for Penelope. We witness her drinking in the dorms, her first party, the inevitable vomit scene and her first walk of shame.
But most importantly, Harrington’s character struggles with the very real meaning of friendship in college. She tackles the question on every freshman’s mind: “We get along, but are we really friends?” Penelope makes you smile and laugh out loud. You’ll also find yourself empathizing with her loneliness and her desire to feel less confused as she journeys through a dramatic freshman year.
Freshmen: Read this book, hands down.
Sophomores: Penelope will remind you of how clueless and scared you felt as a freshman. Now pull yourself out of that sophomore slump!
Juniors: Read it, sympathize and help out those incoming freshman.
Seniors & Alumni: Be prepared to feel slightly nostalgic. You’ll also realize how far you’ve come since those awkward freshman days.