'New Girl' is a contemporary retelling of Daphne DuMarurier's classic novel, 'Rebecca' which I read years ago and thoroughly enjoyed. Therefore I was particularly interested to see how Paige Harbison's new version would compare and I can honestly say that it was pretty amazing. While keeping all the key elements of the original story, Harbison manages to put her own individual spin on the tale making 'New Girl' a really intriguing read.
The story begins when our main character (who remains unnamed until literally the very end!) is accepted into Manderley Academy, a prestigious boarding school that she dreamed of attending back when she was 11. However now 17 and about to start her senior year of high school, leaving behind her friends and family is the last thing she wants but, unable to disappoint her parents - she puts on a smile and accepts the offered place.
However when she arrives at the academy, her fellow students are not nearly as warm and welcoming as she had hoped for. Instantly dubbed as the 'new girl', our main character soon discovers that her spot at the school only opened up due to the disappearance of another girl - Becca Normandy.
Loved and popular, Becca Normandy was the centre of all things cool at Manderly Academy, but nobody wants to know the 'New Girl' who's replacing her. Everything New Girl does, she finds herself compared to Becca and always falling short - But when New Girl lands herself Becca's old boyfriend Max, the school erupts in rumours as everyone tries to discover what really happened the night Becca disappeared...
A year apart, the story is told through the dual perspectives of both Becca and New Girl as they go through and experience the same things and situations in Manderly Academy. The plot - despite a few plot holes and slight 'not sure that would really happen moments - is packed full of intrigue and suspense as every events leads up to finding the truth of what really happened the night Becca disappeared.
The characters themselves were also really interesting. New Girls roommate was sufficiently creepy, and Becca herself was as selfish but relatable villain. The romance however, between New Girl and Max didn't really work for me - mostly as I found Max quite shallow in the beginning and for someone who supposedly doesn't care what people think - he really dragged New Girl into a strange on/off relationship.
The ending though I thought was brilliant and very cleverly done. It certainly put a satisfying end to the book and has put Paige Harbison on my 'authors to watch' list. Mysterious, surprising and all in all a great retelling, 'New Girl' was an intriguing read. 3 ½ stars!
I found Paige Harbison's debut YA, Here Lies Bridget to be quite enjoyable when I read it last summer, so I was curious to see what New Girl would be like. The premise was certainly interesting--it's a modern retelling of a classic: Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca. I haven't read Rebecca yet, but I've heard a lot about it so I was looking forward to reading this.
It tells the story of our protagonist (who is nameless until the last ten pages or so), the New Girl, who leaves her home in Florida to attend a boarding school in New England. When she arrives there, she is greeted with a much colder, darker atmosphere than the warm, sunny one she's used to, and thrown into a world where her new roommate who doesn't even know her automatically forms feelings of hatred towards her because she has apparently taken the place of a popular student who recently vanished.
While I really loved Harbison's writing and her ability to create a startlingly chilly setting, I thought that the story lacked order. It felt to me like a work-in-progress, confusing in places with an underdeveloped plot. I didn't really have a connection to any of the characters (and the behaviour of the students was appalling), except the mysterious, manipulative missing girl, Becca. There was something about Becca that intrigued me, and it wasn't especially hard to figure out why all the other students fell on love with her, and shunned the New Girl when she arrived for supposedly taking her place and trying to be like her. I liked the flashbacks from Becca's perspective, because I thought they gave us quite a good insight into what life at Manderley Academy was like sans New Girl. I liked the idea of somebody starting a new school and basically having an impact on everyone, whether it was good or bad, they all took notice. It was interesting to see how it affected Becca, and then how it affected the second new girl when she came on to the scene. I liked Dana the roommate as well, her general craziness and belief that Becca *would* come back had me hooked.
Also, I would've loved for the author to have gone just that little bit further in regards to the setting, to create an even stronger sense of dread and grimness. Had the focus been on this rather than the excessive drinking, drug use or 'hooking up' in the book, I would've enjoyed it a lot more.
Although I didn't like this as much as I thought I would, I'd still recommend it, if only for the writing. And I shall definitely be picking up the book that inspired New Girl!
Thank you to HarlequinTeen and Netgalley for providing me with an eGalley of this book to review.
"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again."