Saturday, January 28, 2012

New Girl by Paige Harbison

I got this one courtesy of Harlequin on Netgalley. It comes out January 31st. And I really had a lot of fun reading this book.
It’s about a girl who goes to boarding school for her senior year of high school. And it’s not because she did anything wrong or needs to be protected from some mysterious, supernatural force, but because a long time ago she spoke of an interest in attending it –an interest that goes back to Hogwarts. And she couldn’t tell her parents that she would prefer to stay in Florida with her best friend when they had already forked over some serious money to send her to what they thought was her dream school.
I’m not going to say the girl’s name because that is never really mentioned until the end. Or, I’m hoping it wasn’t because then I would know I was the most unobservant person ever. But, really her name is never mentioned till like the last few pages. This is because everyone at her new school refers to her as new girl.
As soon as she gets to her new school she realizes she is replacing last year’s new girl, who is reported to be missing. And she is really replacing her –taking her old room, her old roommate, her old friends, and even falling head over heels for her old boyfriend. The book goes back and forth between the new girl, and Rebecca (last year’s new girl), as she attended the school for the first time. And I loved the comparison of the two girls. This new girl was a lot more self-conscious and definitely had more of a moral compass than Rebecca.
The book is about loss. It’s about a school of teens dealing with the loss of loved one. It’s about idolization. It’s about obsessing over one girl who brought a little teen wildness to a stiff boarding school. And then it’s about the new girl learning to survive all the rumors about her. It’s about trying to learn, love, and grow up in a place that only sees you as a weaker version of someone else.
Both girls seemed really realistic to me. I never really liked either of them, but they were real. It took this new girl way too long to stand up for herself (even to her crazy roommate), and Rebecca was just mean. She really needed to be loved and adored. And when you learn a little about her history (as well as the crazy roommates’) this need does make sense. And I never really felt like I knew the new girl that well. Max (the shared love interest) never really explained how different she was from Rebecca, though he did keep letting her know that she was different. Like what did she like to do besides hide from her crazy roommate and miss the beach all the time? It’s supposed to be a modern retelling of the book Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier, Which I read when I was about 13. I loved that book when I read it, but my memory of it is not what it should be.
I do know the original book is about marriage, not about boarding school. And the crazy roommate in this book is like the crazy housekeeper in the original who never gets over wife number one. Both crazy characters talk their Rebecca replacements into wearing something that belonged to Rebecca during a party, the worst possible time. And I’m not 100% sure if I’m remembering this correctly, but I thought Rebecca was murdered by a key character in the original. And I kept waiting for an announcement to be made that this modern Rebecca had cancer or something. Maybe I’m making this up, but I know the two Rebecca’s had very different endings. And so did the main characters and the men. Maybe I need to re-read the original…
Any way, I loved this retelling. I thought the boarding school worked as a great gothic backdrop. And the idolizing interpretation was fascinating. I loved how this one not-so-nice person could have such an effect on so many people, and it really kind of made me think of reality show stars. But, I also wished I liked the characters more. I didn’t find myself caring enough for the new girl’s outcome. She needed more personality and more interest in things.

Also, there were a few little things that nagged at me. I really had a hard time believing that the new girl couldn’t tell her parents that she didn’t want to go. And then I was like, she just didn’t want them to feel bad. But, really? That’s a whole senior year wasted to not have your parents feel bad? And if she cared so much about not making them feel bad, why did she never talk with them? And then there’s the best friend at home. There was a problem with her boyfriend, and nothing ever got resolved with that. Though, I guess all sorts of life experiences are truly involved in deciding on where to go to college. And it could get resolved later. I guess I just wanted more resolution in the ending.
I read the whole thing very quickly. I thought it would be hard to get through because there was a lot of description and a lot of exaggerated teen drama. But, I loved it. The drama was realistic. And while there was no potion classes or invisibility cloaks, there was an intense gothic feel that reminded me a lot of the original. I give it a 8/10.

If you would like another perspective on this one, my friend Christina just reviewed it as well: A Reader of Fictions

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the link! New Girl is awesome, although you're right about new girl not freaking standing up for herself. I would have punched new roommate in the face. Not literally, of course, because that would get me in trouble, but with my rapier words.

    Also, why did the school not reorganize the rooms for roommates with so many issues?!?!