Review by Kirsty Nicole Pole
This novel follows 18 year old Penelope as she moves to Harvard University to start her studies, arriving with only her Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights poster (A sign that teenage girls these days just don’t appreciate the deliciousness of Patrick Swayze in the original anymore – shock horror!), she prepares to take on life at one of America’s most famous universities. However, her university life doesn’t get off to quite the start that she wants, roommates Emma and Lan are far too busy either hibernating in their bedrooms or signing up for the most complicated courses that the university offers and Penelope ends up spending most of her time day dreaming over the handsome and dishevelled Gustav who never seems to be within speaking distance. Ahhhhh, teenage love.
Penelope is a loveable and honest character. She is a lot of the things I remember myself being at 18 when I left for uni in a car crammed with all my worldly belongings - naïve, eager and excited about new adventures, I enjoyed following the start of her progress through university life and growing up.
As Penelope navigates her journey through young adulthood, I’m sad to say I got bored. It could simply be that the novel wasn’t my personal taste, but I also felt that it lacked the spark that I look for in a book. I wasn’t particularly interested in learning about the traditional American ritual of starting Harvard and I kept waiting for the book to entice me but it just never did. I am sure that this novel will be a big hit in literary circles; it is sophisticated, well written and researched but unfortunately, in the end, I never fully warmed to it.