Synopsis: A contemporary young-adult retelling inspired by the classic 1938 romantic suspense bestseller Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier.
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: 3 of 5 stars
In Paige Harbison’s New Girl, we meet a girl who has been accepted to Manderley Academy, an exclusive New Hampshire boarding school. She has been wanting this forever, for several years in fact. When the news arrived shortly before her senior year in high school, she is a little heart broken. You see, New Hampshire is a long way from St. Augustine, Florida. She has settled in her ways, has grown accustomed to her high school friends, and is comfortable in her home with her family. But this is an opportunity, and instead of disappointing her parents, she packs her belongings and goes to Manderley Academy.
Life in Manderley Academy doesn’t begin with roses and champagne. She quickly finds out, thanks to her roommate and others, that the reason she was granted admission is because of a missing girl, Becca. Like many moments of being the New Girl, she feels a sense of scrutiny. Everyone either hates her or tolerates her, comparing her to Becca, and already making assumptions without getting to know her.
Throughout the New Girl‘s story, we see glimpses of Becca’s time at Manderley. I have to admit, I loved who she was and what she did for the school. Becca was vivacious and brought a renewed life to the otherwise mundane happenings at the boarding school. But as the plot unfolded, I started to dislike Becca more and more. There was a desperation of reverence that showed her raw emotions. It was like Becca thrived on the drama, making the school talk only about her.
So, you’ve noticed that I haven’t mentioned the name of Harbison’s New Girl. It’s because it’s not revealed until the end. At first, I thought she was a little weak, but that comes along with insecurity and feeling unsure. I would feel the same way if I had to walk in her shoes. To be compared to someone no longer there, that’s just impossible to deal with, wouldn’t you agree? But I’m wrong. She learns to live within the margins of acceptance, finding her certainty and identity in a meek situation. She tolerates much more than I ever would, making her a very strong heroine.
Harbison’s New Girl showed a different side to suspense and mystery, at least for me. There is definitely a dark side that is portrayed through the teenagers, showing the worst scenarios imaginable. From what I’ve gotten out of this story is the acceptance and forgiveness one has for each other, especially in a dog-eat-dog world like Manderley Academy.
The plot was complex, varying from contemporary drama to an intriguing mystery. I thought the premise was very fascinating, even if it is a retelling. There was a reinvention, a renewal, if you will, to the story that definitely gave it the update that it needed. But I didn’t connect to either characters, as much as I wanted to. I couldn’t place myself in the protagonist’s shoes, nor in Becca’s, but this is just me.
Overall, I enjoyed New Girl. I loved the mysterious romance that came along with goosebumps. I urge you to pick this up and enjoy a modern twist on a classic.