Release Date: 31st January, 2012
They call me 'New Girl' . . .
Ever since I arrived at exclusive, prestigious Manderly Academy, that's what 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.
A big thanks to Gabby from HarlequinTeen Australia for sending me a review copy of this book!
NEW GIRL is a modern retelling of Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, which I wasn't aware of until the moment I finished the book. And now, after looking back on it, I can definitely see where the author got her inspiration from since both of the stories are very similiar too, only this one is much more teenage-like than the other. But boy it was sure an exciting read. After all, from my understanding, the reader has no clue what the protagonist's name is until the last page and to me that's a fantastic idea, and completely unique on the author's part.
NEW GIRL alternates between two main characters, one from the past (Becca) and one from the present (New Girl - I won't spoil the girl's name here), and while both girl's share similarities toward each other but they couldn't be anymore different. Becca, of course, is the girl whom mysteriously disappeared during the high school year, leaving everyone else at the academy worried sick and believe for her to be dead. New Girl on the other hand, the main book's protagonist, is a girl happily living her life full of lovely friends and a doting family, but soon everything changes when she's finally accepted into an academy of her childhood dreams (even though now she doesn't want to go) and ultimately replacing Becca's place at the school. And because of that reason alone, let's just say not everyone welcomes this 'New Girl' with open arms. Literally.
As I dived into this book, there's one thing I realized. It was damn interesting. This is the very first book that has left me so conflicted and left with so many different feelings about it. I mean, part of me didn't find a lot of things likeable - if not at all - about NEW GIRL and yet another part of me thought it was brilliantly written, too. Take for example . . . the cast of characters. Almost every single character in this book will have a HATE word printed on to their forehead. But before you go running for the hills in panic, never you fear this statement of mine. These characters will be a pleasure to hate. Trust me.
Becca is good-looking, manipulative and selfish, and despite that hating quality that she continues to possess . . . she was such an engaging character. You, as a reader, wanted to know what she was going to do next . . . even if you knew it was going to be like Hell breaking loose. Then you have Dana. Her 'sort-of' confiding best friend. To a point of no return, Dana is the nastiest girl in this novel (she was a psycho okay!) and while she's concerned and deluded about her friend's disappearance (Becca's), she seems to be far more concerned about making the New Girl's life miserable just because this girl looks like her friend and thinks she's trying to be like Becca (honestly what's so great about this Becca anyway?).
Like I said before, Dana is psycho but she plays her part so, so well. But then, of course, you have the boys. One being Max, who isn't exactly worth the high praises (don't worry Max eventually redeems himself) but yet again you love to hate him. Now apart from those characters, what I did find likeable was the main character New Girl. Despite her dire circumstances of being constantly surrounded by a hateful group of people, she still manages to trudge through with her head held up high and many readers will find her relatable on that note. However, when it comes down to all the characters themselves, you will be left with a hating and loving passion which are both equally as awesome as the other. I don't know know how Harbison made them so hateful in such a captivating way, but she sure did something right with this book.
For those planning on having a good old romance, think again. The romance was frustrating to witness. I'm not kidding here. The boys weren't necessarily appealing nor swoon-worthy, but - gosh, I don't know what to say here. I hate to love this book but I loved it anyway. Whether it's the mystery which was brilliant and twisty and edgy and just the way I like it, or the characters whom will have you clawing your way through hair-raising tensions, or even the romance that will continue to surprise you . . . just be prepared to be left speechless. There's honestly no words to describe this book without acknowledging the fact on how fantastic this book really is despite everything that I thought of it. Look at me now. I don't even make sense here. haha.
Overall, Paige Harbison's second novel NEW GIRL is far more suited to a very selective audience but that doesn't mean it's bad. Because it's brilliant. How do I describe it's brilliance in a simple way of saying, 'Go check out this book'? Well here's my pitch to you - NEW GIRL is kind of like that boyfriend of yours where you hated him on the spot but one whom will eventually awaken you from a daydream and slowly work its way into your heart, and in the end you found love. If you want a book that keeps you guessing with its very twisted ways, then NEW GIRL is definitely your type of read. Think Gossip Girl meets Cruel Intentions, with a little sprinkle of the Heathers. And to me, that's the perfect combination, don't you think?