Title: New Girl
Author: Paige Harbison
Publisher: Harlequinn Teen
Publication Date: January 2012
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Horror/Mystery
Series or Stand Alone: Stand Alone
Synopsis can be found here.
One of my favorite books of all time is Rebecca by Daphne duMaurier. My middle school librarian recommended it to me, promising me a tale of intrigue, dark secrets, murder mystery and love. It is that and much more. Since then, I have sought out tales that create a new spin on Rebecca.
New Girl is the latest retelling of this Gothic tale.
As in the original Rebecca, our nameless narrator is thrown into circumstances she feels unable to control. New Girl is sent to boarding school in her senior year of high school, only to be overshadowed by Becca, the beautiful, fun and popular girl who went missing earlier that year. Becca is mysterious and adored, leaving her presence around the boarding school. The other students wait faithfully for her to return. Here is our new girl, living in Becca's old room, with Becca's old roommate. And even, gasp, crushing on Becca's old boyfriend Max.
The tale is creepy, slowly moving through Manderley boardings school like an old movie. The unfolding of the past events, the ghost of Becca everywhere from the photos in her room to her name on everyone's lips. New Girl cannot get away from Becca. The roommate, Dana, is every bit unhinged and wicked as I hoped she would be. (Seeing as how she represents Mrs. Danvers, the housekeeper in the original).
Though there are similarities between the books, I found it to be a captivating read. Harbison changes things just enough that she keeps readers on her toes.
Luckily, New Girl has more self awareness and a stronger backbone than our dear Mrs. duWinter from the original. New Girl slowly develops into more than just a wallflower, fighting for what she wants, making her a refreshing heroine.
I love the chapters about Becca. An uneasy feeling crept over me, reading about the past, this manipulative girl wandering the halls of her boarding school, using her power and influence over everyone. Harbison makes this Becca more defined and real than duMaurier's spirit. But that's not bad. I love both time lines of the story, eager for the other to start again.
Be warned: there are a few sexual situations in this book. Good for you, Harbison! They're juniors and seniors at a boarding school! Of course there's going to be some "adult content" going on! It really added to the story, not only shining light onto Becca's character but also onto her relationships, manipulating those she loves, and those she doesn't. There is also sexual abuse. It didn't take me out of the story at all, and I think it added a lot of depth to Becca's past.
The only moments of the book that lost me were towards the end. One I won't disclose, but it seemed too far fetched for me. And the second was when our beautiful vixen makes a long speech. It seems good to explain everything, but I feel like this was out of character for Becca and more for the reader.
The ending is just right.
Overall, if you aren't a fan of the original Rebecca, you'll be swept away by New Girl. And if you are, you'll be happy to visit this new Manderley. Sometimes the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Rating 8 Cookie Worthy