Publication Date: 31st January, 2012
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."