Thursday, February 02, 2012

Review: New Girl by Paige Harbison

From Goodreads: They call me 'New Girl' ... Ever since I arrived at exclusive, prestigious Manderly Academy, that’s who I am. New girl. Unknown. But not unnoticed - because of her. Becca Normandy - that’s the name on everyone’s lips. The girl whose picture I see everywhere. The girl I can’t compare to. I mean, her going missing is the only reason a spot opened up for me at the academy. And everyone stares at me like it’s my fault. Except for Max Holloway - the boy whose name shouldn’t be spoken. At least, not by me. Everyone thinks of him as Becca’s boyfriend but she’s gone, and here I am, replacing her. I wish it were that easy. Sometimes, when I think of Max, I can imagine how Becca’s life was so much better than mine could ever be. And maybe she’s still out there, waiting to take it back.

My Rating: 1.5 hearts 

Thoughts on the Novel: New Girl by Paige Harbison is based on Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, a fact I didn’t know before I requested it. Since I’ve never read the classic, I have no idea how Harbison’s adaptation compares to the original. As a standalone in and of itself though, New Girl was a book that I had several issues with.

The novel begins with the unrealistic premise of the main character (whose name isn’t revealed until the end) being shipped off to boarding school in her senior year because after falling in love with Harry Potter in Grade 8, she begged her parents to let her go to a boarding school. Though she has forgotten all about wanting to go to Manderly Academy by now, her parents for some reason still believe that their daughter is desperate to attend the school and have been applying every year on her behalf ever since.

Once at Manderly Academy, 'New Girl' is the new girl who nobody wants around because she has taken the spot of Becca, a popular girl who has gone missing. The mystery surrounding Becca’s disappearance was the only thing that I found remotely interesting about New Girl. Nobody knows what happened to Becca, but there are rumours that she may have run away, died and/or gotten pregnant. With everyone missing Becca, constantly talking about her, and wishing that she would come back; it’s not surprising that 'New Girl' soon feels envious of Becca. So, she whines a lot about not being happy being under the shadow of Becca.

Becca is actually the other narrator in New Girl; and you see things that happened last year from her perspective. I found the switches in perspective disrupted the flow of the story because they were never smooth. Anyway, getting back to Becca: Harbison excels at writing mean girls! In her debut novel Here Lies Bridget, I hated the character of Bridget. Here, Harbison tops that because I hated Becca even more! This girl has managed to charm the entire school into liking her, but is a horrible person who lies and manipulates people into doing what she wants. By the time there’s an attempt to add a little complexity to her character later in the book, it was too late for me to even feel a little pity or sympathy for her.

I was also not a fan of the love triangle situation – first between Becca and two boys, and then between those same boys and 'New Girl' – since it seemed like the sole purpose of it was to create drama. As well, I couldn’t figure out why one of the guys was willing to go along with Becca and pretend to be her boyfriend when he didn’t want to if she was already having sex with him.

Other things I disliked about New Girl were the filler parts of the story (which pretty much seemed like it consisted of teens having parties, getting drunk and/or having sex) and the attempt to add a little paranormal element to a contemporary novel that would have been just fine without it.

In the end, I kind of felt similar to one of the Manderly Academy seniors at graduation – happy to be moving on and looking forward to the future (or in my case, the next good book I’ll be reading).

Comments About the Cover: I like its simplicity, and the slogan “What if nobody knew your name?” would definitely make me curious enough to check out the book. 

In exchange for an honest review, this ARC was received from the publisher (Harlequin Teen) for free via NetGalley.

14 comments:

  1. It seems like a lot of the reviews of this one are lukewarm at best, so I don't think I'm going to be picking it up anytime soon. A pity that the execution of this one is so poor - I think the premise of a YA retelling of Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier is a good one! I've seen the movie Rebecca (and I'm not sure, but I think perhaps I read the book years ago?), and while I think it could lend itself to some of the problems you discussed when translating it into a YA setting, it sounds like the Gothic atmosphere that gives the original its charm is lost in this one :(

    ReplyDelete
  2. 1.5!? Must've been a pain for you to finish this book. I've seen this on NetGalley and somehow, I got the feeling that it wouldn't be that good so I didn't request it. *Phew*

    ReplyDelete
  3. Rebecca is one of my favorite reads and I requested this one to see how well it would be updated for a YA audience. From all the reviews that I've read it's either a love it or hate it read. I've yet to read a review that loved the original novel and the update as well. Because I'm morbidly curious, I'll read this one but maybe with a different lens since I already knows what happens in the plot.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I absolutely loved Rebecca, so I don't think this book is for me, hah. I have trouble with a lot of YA retellings anyway. Thanks for the honest review. :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. We definitely had similar reactions to this one Z! The sheer volume of alcohol and sex in this one just rubbed me the wrong way, I just wanted to get away from it a bit and have more time with the characters. By the time Becca's mom entered in the picture at the end, it was too late for me to feel any sympathy for her either. Just not the book for me! Or you:)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Oh no! I'm really sorry you didn't like this book either, Z! :( I've heard some reviews saying the same thing: that Becca was awful and that the love triangle was uncalled for. But I had no idea that it was based on Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca either! Like you, I haven't read it but my aunt thought it was pretty great! She's still trying to get me to pick it up haha. x)

    Thank you so much for the amazing honest review, Z! I'm still really intrigued to know what the New Girl's name is, though! Is it Becca, too? :D

    ReplyDelete
  7. Definitely not for me. All the drugs, alchol and sex would turn me off. Becca sounds horrible and I wouldn't be sympathetic either. Too bad because the original Rebecca was very good. Wonderful review Zahida!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Ummm... This is one book I will not feel bad about always being one book behind you. LOL

    The poor New Girl. She sounds like a hot mess, and that's sad for her because it's like she never even had a chance. The fact that her identity/name was not revealed until the end gave her no identity in the book. Well, that's what it sounds like anyway. And I'll be the first to admit that yes, I can still develope an addicted to a story even if I don't like the protagonist *cough*MacKayla Lane*cough* but this story doesn't sound like one for me.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Too bad this wasn't so great because it sounds like it would be interesting. I hate when that happens! I read her first book, Here Lies Bridget, and I didn't really like it. I love her mom's books though, Beth Harbison - she's awesome!

    ReplyDelete
  10. I'm sorry to hear you didn't like this book though I understand where you're coming from, since this book has a 50/50 chance of liking it. I, on the other hand, thought it was such a great read and despite hating all of the characters I ended up loving them for all the hate. Odd I know. Like you though, I wasn't aware it was a retelling of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca until I finished the book . . . both stories definitely share things in common. Anyway, great review!

    ReplyDelete
  11. I'm sorry you didn't like it! From a retelling angle, I liked it a lot. I love Rebecca, and I think Paige Harbison did some interesting things with the way she adapted the story. If I didn't have the original to compare it to, then I don't think I would have liked it half as much. The original characters are awful people, too. I did strongly dislike the rampant sex/drinking though.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Ummm I've read some of the similar things that you brought up from other reviewers...don't think I'll be picking this one up anytime soon.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I'm sorry you didn't like it! I am a part of the blog tour for this one... So I'll be reading it soon. I'm interested to see how our opinions match up.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Eh, I don't think I'd like this one either. I'm not a fan of "mean girl" stories and tend to avoid them as much as possible. Also not a fan of filler scenes involving sex and drinking. What's the point? Thanks for the review; I'll be staying away.

    ReplyDelete

I love comments and will reply back via either email (my preferred method) or stopping by your blog.

Oh, and as much as I love awards, as of now this blog is an award-free zone because I lack the time to post them up.