New Girl by Paige Harbison (Book Review)

January 8, 2012 Book Review, Young Adult 5 ★★★

New Girl by Paige Harbison (Book Review)New Girl by Paige Harbison
Published by Harlequin Teen on January 31, 2012
Genres: Contemporary, Retelling, Supernatural
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: From the publisher through Netgalley
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3 Stars
Welcome to Manderley Academy.

I hadn't wanted to go, but my parents were so excited…. So here I am, the new girl at Manderley, a true fish out of water. But mine's not the name on everyone's lips. Oh, no.

It's Becca Normandy they can't stop talking about. Perfect, beautiful Becca. She went missing at the end of last year, leaving a spot open at Manderley—the spot that I got. And everyone acts like it's my fault that infallible, beloved Becca is gone and has been replaced by not perfect, completely fallible, unknown Me.

Then, there's the name on my lips—Max Holloway. Becca's ex. The one boy I should avoid, but can't. Thing is, it seems like he wants me, too. But the memory of Becca is always between us. And as much as I'm starting to like it at Manderley, I can't help but think she's out there, somewhere, watching me take her place.

Waiting to take it back.

Well… That was confusing! With this book, I kind of felt like I was just going through the motions. I wanted to read it, and I knew I should read it, but I wasn’t excited about it or craving it like I do when I’m reading a book I adore. I spent a lot of time going, “hmmm…”. This was definitely unique and totally unlike anything I’ve ever read before.

We have our unnamed (until the very end) heroine/narrator of the story. She’s not a very riveting character, probably because she is the nameless “new girl” living in the shadow of, and pretty much replacing, the girl who disappeared mysteriously the year before. I had to feel for her. I moved around a lot as a child, and I’ve been the new girl SO many times. It’s really hard to go to a brand new place, and at the end of high school? That’s pretty brutal. It’s even harder because Becca (mystery girl) had to disappear to even open a spot for “new girl” to attend the boarding school. Everyone’s got a major thing against her, and they don’t even know her yet. That’s got to be hard. At the same time, though, because I’ve been there I know that you’ve got to stick up for yourself to fit in. She didn’t. She spent a lot of time having people yell at her and accuse her of untrue things while she sat there, stunned, with her mouth gaping open. So… she kind of bugged me. Eventually she finds her footing and begins to stick up for herself. And I do admire her for sticking it out and not moving back home. I know I would want to, so I have to give her props there.

Every other chapter or so, Becca narrates and we have flashbacks of her time at the school before her disappearance. She was a snobby, cocky, manipulative, drunken slut! And… a total sociopath. I got really tired of reading about her against-the-rules late night beer pong/body shot parties at the boathouse, her two-timing two nice boys, her lies, and her ego. I really just hated her! She’s the kind of person that new girls of the world fear. Her friend and roommate, Dana (also “new girl’s” roommate”), was also totally psycho. She really creeped me out as I watched her grief over losing Becca totally consume her. She spent the entire book on a conquest to find Becca and ruin “new girl’s” life. And she was creepy. I got chills reading about her. And then there were all the other members of Becca’s posse, who also hated “new girl”. And then there were the two boys who had a thing for Becca… also having a thing for “new girl” but trying not to have a thing for her because it would be weird in light of Becca’s disappearance. Both guys were nothing special, and I had a hard time understand how they knew enough about her to like her so much. So… poor “new girl” does not have many positive pieces of her life.

Really, the whole story is all boathouse parties, people sneaking off to do the nasty, the occasional classroom environment, creepy encounters, and insane people being really mean to an innocent girl they don’t even know the name of. And the sad thing is… I can totally see this happening in real life. I think that’s why it disturbed me so much! A popular girl in a high school environment can TOTALLY take control of an entire student body like Becca did. She was so powerful that even being MIA, she still ruined the life of someone! That’s kind of scary if you think about it! (By the way, I had no idea this was a retelling of Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier until I read another review. Now I’m intrigued… I need to go grab my copy of Rebecca and read it!) The pacing was a little too slow for me, especially at the end… although I did kind of like “new girl’s” introspection as she accessed her final thoughts and her time at Manderly.

I tend to be pretty critical, but in light of what I just said, this book had some positive points. I did not find it weird that we never knew “new girl’s” name. It did not feel like we were not allowed to know. It flowed naturally, and I think not knowing her name actually allowed me to identify with her more. It was easier to slip into her mind and feel what she was feeling. I was also pretty intrigued by what happened to Becca, and how she had such control over so many people. I read most of this book in one sitting, so even though I have my complaints, I was still interested enough to continue on well into the wee hours of the morning.

(Oh my. The light bulb just went on… Rebecca… Becca. Gosh. In my defense, it’s 3:00 AM. Don’t judge!)

I liked how Becca and “new girl” were linked. They both essentially told the exact same story, but things went very differently for the two of them. Becca always got what she wanted and “new girl” pretty much never did. The character development was sound. I know the personalities of the main characters very well. I don’t know their favorite book, TV show, or color. I don’t know where they are from, or what they plan to do with their lives, but I can guess what they’ll think or feel next. They contrasted well with each other, and I liked getting into their heads.

This book was more of an experience than a story. I can see it as a kind of social commentary. I felt the chill and the emotion. I felt really sorry for “new girl”. Actually, I ended up feeling really sorry for Becca as well. It really made me think a lot. Even now as I’m writing this review, I’m coming up with new things I pulled from the book. I just keep coming back to how eerily possible the entire story is. Clearly, an underlying moral message was written between the lines, but telling you my opinions on that might foil your own thoughts.

Have any of you read this? What did you think? Those of you who have read Rebecca, how closely does this story follow Rebecca’s storyline? No spoilers, please!

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**After a lovely book chat with Magan of Rather be Reading and Alexa of Alexa Loves Books, we collectively decided we are all even more confused by this book than we thought! Some of our conversation highlights include:

Alexa:  I thought the alternating points of view worked out well. Because we got New Girl’s POV and then a bit of a flashback to Becca. I had to get used to it though.
Jana:  I enjoyed it. I think either story would have been boring on its own. So, telling them at the same time was a nice change of pace.
Magan:  Yeah, I liked the alternating POVs, too. It was hard for me to keep up with the timing sometimes because of the character overlaps. Once I got used to it, all was good.
Magan: I felt like there were pages where I was supposed to read into something more, but didn’t and then something supposedly happened between them and I felt lost.
Jana:  Magan, I agree. I felt like I wasn’t thinking hard enough as I read.
Alexa: I always felt like I was missing something too. Like I was supposed to know certain things already.
Jana:  I thought it was the new girl, not Becca… OH MAN. My brain hurts. Haha.
Magan:  Mine too. This is rough.
Alexa:  It’s actually an interesting book to talk about because we can all figure it out together.Magan:  I think I would have swallowed my pride and begged for a return ticket home. I couldn’t have made it through all of that.
Jana:  OH YES. I would have been gone immediately.
Alexa:  Magan – I would have caved the instant they started comparing me to her.
Jana: Haha. I think “creepy” is our most frequently used word.
Magan:  Yeah, I had a stack of not-so-fluffy or romantic books to read after NG and I just wanted something super girly to take my mind off the haunted feeling after I finished NG.
Jana:  Same here. I did feel haunted. Kind of disturbed. It still gets to me even now.
Alexa:  Me too.
Magan:  Yep. Ditto.
Jana: I think we should all read Rebecca and then see if this makes sense. Haha.
Magan:  Yeah, I think you’re right, Jana.
Alexa:  We should! Haha, it can be our next project.
Magan:  Really there was just so much crazy here.
Jana:  Yes. And crazy = makes no sense, hence the reason we are confused.
Magan:  Haha, yep!
Alexa:  YES
Magan:  So, what did you guys rate this on GR? I gave it three stars.
Jana:  I gave it 3 stars.
Alexa:  me too! hahahaha
Magan:  It definitely wasn’t a dislike kind of book, but almost like I wanted more. More answers. More loose ends tied up.
Jana:  Exactly.

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5 Responses to “New Girl by Paige Harbison (Book Review)”

  1. Daisy

    Very interesting! I’m reading this one soonish I think and I LOVED Rebecca. From your review I’m thinking it follows the original storyline pretty close, but I’ll let you know once I read it :)

  2. Tashya

    Hey all! Thanks for the discussion. Sorry you didn’t love the book, but the TEEN team appreciates your comments and the time you took to read the book and discuss. LMK what you think if you do read Rebecca! –Natashya

  3. Jana

    Yay, Daisy! I’m totally going to read Rebecca. It’s calling to me right now! Definitely let me know what you think of New Girl. :)

    Alexa, we definitely should!

    Natashya, thanks for stopping by! It was a very interesting read, I just could have gone with a little more info. I’m glad I read it, though. :)

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