First Time: Penny - Abigail Barnette
I think this is a cute idea. Abigail Barnette wrote two books regarding the relationship of one couple. Book #1, First Time: Ian (First Time #1) focused on Ian Pratchett's side of the story and now "First Time: Penny (First Time #2) focuses on Penny Parker.
I have to say that I was pretty bored by both characters for most of the book. Penny is in her early twenties (I want to say 22 but I don't have the energy to go look it up right now--ETA looked it up, yup she's 22) and she gets set up on a bind date by her boss with 53 year old Ian. The boss in the story is named Sophie and is the main character in her "The Boss" series. Since I have never read them before, I got spoiled on some events from those books which were talked about here. So if you are planning on starting this or Ian's book, know that things get discussed which will spoil you on that series.
Let's get the main thing out of the way. There is a huge age difference (22 to 53) which I can honestly say I have seen handled better in other books. Off the top of my head I really liked Dee Ernst's "A Different Kind of Forever" even though that book had the older woman and younger man, and in "Jane Erye" by Charlotte Bronte where we had Jane Erye and Mr. Rochester.
This book only touches upon this a few times, and the two main characters discuss children, but don't really discuss the fact that any kid they have together in the next year or two, would have an older father and a fairly young mother. Penny's friend and roommate Rosa at least keeps bringing it up, but it seems like it goes out one ear into the other. The fact that Penny only was legally able to drink a year prior to this book start gave me hard pause.
Besides Penny finding Ian hot (as soon as she sees him) that is all I got from her. I didn't get why she was so into him right away because I didn't see it myself (he swears a lot so she likes that). Besides the fact that there is a huge secret that is revealed regarding Ian, his past sexual exploits that turned me off the character right away. I just couldn't get past that at all since it sounded like that was something that he was really into, and for him to all of a sudden be okay with not doing that anymore for a person he just started seeing read a little false to me.
Penny is also a virgin (though she owns a vibrator) and I really didn't get her reasoning at all behind that. First, she goes into her family superstition, then she turns it around to say that she is scared of being hurt by someone that really doesn't love her, and then it is back to not wanting to fall in love, etc. It didn't make a lot of sense to me.
We find out some about Penny's upbringing and her terrible parents, but I wish that we had gotten more backstory on her in college and her first relationship. Things got aluded to here and there, but I felt like I was digging through a lot of subtext that was going on. It seems implied that Penny was spoiled and kind of an asshole before going to college, but then that changed.
Penny is immature though. We get to see signs of her immaturity throughout the book and I was pretty over it by the end of the book. Her focusing on fortune cookies, astrology, numerology, etc. and her using those as the reasons why she knows she is going to fall in love and be with Ian is tiresome.
Ian fell flat to me through this whole book. I didn't get why he was even interested in Penny past her age and her looks. There was no "there" at all with this guy. I don't know what he did all day that left him exhausted all of the time. And it's not quirky to not have food in your house. Frankly I thought that was the whole thing with both him and Penny. There were a lot of quirky things about both of them that did not equal them being fully developed. I didn't feel like they were real at all.
Other characters in this book don't fare as well. We have some interactions with Penny's boss, Sophie which turned me off (I have the first book in "The Boss" series that I am rethinking right now).
Penny's roommate Rosa is a transgender woman, but other than that, I didn't get a feel for her either. We know that she has a back and forth relationship with her ex and that was about it. I wanted to know more about her, what she did for a living (I can't even recall if it was said). What does Rosa get out of her friendship with Penny besides having to mother hen her all of the time?
We get to meet Penny's parents (garbage people) that Ian calls fairy-tale monsters, and I have to say that they were a little over the top. Once again, they didn't feel real to me.
I thought the writing was okay, I found a couple of typos here and there. Also there were certain phrases I was so confused about, such as "Obama jeans"? I was wondering if that means he wears terrible jeans or what? I don't remember ever seeing President Obama in badly looking jeans. But maybe I just haven't looked hard enough. Anyway it was jarring to me.
The flow was a little up and down throughout the book. I think that's because there was just a lot of Penny thinking about Ian, what to wear for Ian, what to do with her hair, (you get the picture). Also after the two characters finally do the deed, the book turned into an entirely other book.
The setting of New York was done very well I have to say. It was nice to see New York change through the seasons (summer into fall and then winter). I just didn't get enough of that. We do have these two going out and about. But mostly they are holed up at Ian's place or Penny's apartment.
The ending was a bit of a mess to me. There is always a reason why the heroine and hero break up or kept apart, and then things are hand waved away in the end.