New GirlNew Girl by Paige Harbison

Publisher: Mira Ink

Format: Kindle Edition

Reviewed by: Onnica

Genre: Teen/YA

Score: 7/10

Plot: our heroine has a great life: eternal sunshine in Florida, great friends and a wonderful family. Unfortunately, a flippant comment she made years ago while watching Harry Potter is about to change everything. When her parents excitedly announce that she’ll get her wish to spend her final year of high school at Manderley – a prestigious boarding school in New England – she doesn’t know what to do. She likes her life the way it is and really doesn’t want to leave everything behind. Her fears seem to be well-founded when she arrives and is basically ignored by everyone and then labelled as ‘New Girl.’ Things get more sinister when it becomes clear that the only reason she was accepted to Manderley was due to the disappearance of Becca Normandy, the school’s IT girl and sweetheart. Her room is full of Becca’s belongings and her roommate Dana, a Becca devotee, makes it clear she’s not welcome and she’d better not get too comfortable, as Becca will be back – soon. She feels as though she’s living Becca’s life, following in her footsteps and when she meets Max, Becca’s (ex) boyfriend, things turn from bad to worse. With the whole school hating her, she begins to wonder whether she’ll make it to the end of semester alive or whether Becca will return to claim what’s hers…

Review: I bought this book on a whim – the story is a re-working of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, set within the confines of Manderley, a school full of privilege and secrets. I really enjoyed the storytelling ability of Paige Harbison – the action unfolds a steady pace while making you read faster to see just what happened to Becca. Was she an all-round  sweetheart or was she a master manipulator? The narrative alternates between New Girl and Becca’s points of view. Interestingly, you won’t find out New Girl’s name until the end of the book and I didn’t even notice  – it was quite clever the way it was done. There’s also plenty of craziness in this story – the whole school seems to have fallen under the influence of the cult of Becca and New Girl faces a lot of hostility from different areas, (especially her roommate Dana, who is CRAZY!) while living a parallel life to the beloved Becca. I really liked the heroine; she has to put up with a lot, is tested both mentally and physically, yet she doesn’t wallow or give up.

At times, the dialogue between some of the students was a little repetitive – the warnings that New Girl should stay away from Max as he was madly in love with Becca and when she returned they’d pick up where they left off – this wore a bit thin after a while as clearly not everything was as it seemed and I wanted to get answers. There are perhaps some far-fetched scenes too, where the line between dreams and reality blurred but I think considering the mental torture the heroine is put through, it’s understandable.

Review based on the following criteria:

Heroine 9: strong, likeable and not afraid to be herself. Everything you’d like to have been at 18.

Likeability of the hero 6: I think that Max could have been developed way more – he didn’t speak up when he should have and at times seemed a little weak. I’m all for the strong and silent type but he could have stood up for the heroine a bit more.

Believability of the plot 7: school can be hell – this we know! I enjoyed the world the author created and sure there were some parts that didn’t quite work for me but overall I enjoyed this dramatic, angst-ridden journey of finding your own identity and keeping true to yourself. It was a great idea that was well-executed.

Author’s writing style 8: Always engaging, drew me in immediately and she has a way of getting into the heads of self-obsessed adolescents – so well observed. She writes disturbed teenager very well!

How much I wanted to keep reading 9: I defy you not to want to keep reading in order to find out who Becca was and what happened. Will she come back? Is she really watching New Girl?

Final score: 7/10

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