Thursday, February 23, 2012

Review: New Girl by Paige Harbison

Title: New Girl

Author: Paige Harbison
Publisher: HarlequinTeen
Release date: January 31st 2012
Pages: 304
Genre: Contemporary YA
Source: NetGalley - thank you to HarlequinTeen and NetGalley for providing a free eGalley of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Find out more: Amazon | Goodreads

Goodreads description:

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.

First sentence:
The panoramic view outside the windows of the bus showed a world that wasn't mine.

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I really don't know what to say about this book - I'm not sure whether I hated it or loved it, which is strange, because I usually already know while reading whether or not I like a book. The idea for New Girl sounded creepy in a good way, but I still wasn't sure what to expect, since I'd heard mixed things about Paige Harbison's debut, Here Lies Bridget. So I can't say my expectations were met or not met - I just have really, really conflicted feelings about New Girl.

Before reading New Girl, I didn't even know it's a retelling of the classic Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, and I probably still wouldn't know if someone hadn't pointed it out to me. Since I didn't read the original, I can't tell how New Girl ties into that story. I think it works as a stand-alone, though, since I didn't feel like I didn't get something because of not having read Rebecca.

The background of the story didn't make all that much sense to me. The new girl had wanted to go to this boarding school when she was thirteen, but her application was rejected. Now, four years later, her parents tell her they'd secretly been applying for her every year, and this year she got in. I'm sorry, but that's just... weird. Why would the parents just assume their daughter still wants to go, four years later, when she hasn't mentioned it since? And why would they think changing schools for your senior year is a good idea, when there's absolutely no reason to leave? I also didn't get why the new girl didn't just say she doesn't want to go - she's always talking about how much life at the boarding school sucks and how much she misses her friends and the weather back in Florida, but she never says anything to anyone and doesn't tell her parents she wants to stay in Florida, which I didn't get.

The situation at school doesn't make much sense, either. A spot opened up because Becca's gone, and that's why new girl can go to that boarding school. When she gets there, there's still some of Becca's stuff in Becca's old room and now the new girl's room, still all of her pictures hanging on the wall. Wouldn't her parents have picked that stuff up, or wouldn't the school have done something about it? What did they expect the new girl to do, live with Becca's pictures on her wall and Becca's sheets on her bed? How can the school possibly think that's a good idea? Isn't it obvious that would cause problems between Dana, Becca's old roommate and now the new girl's roommate, and the new girl? I don't think it's realistic how the school just didn't take care of that at all.

I really liked how the new girl's name isn't revealed until the very end. That aspect is skillfully written, so much so that I didn't even notice until I wanted to take notes on her character and realized I didn't know her name.

Other than that, the MC is an okay, bland character. She's not terrible, and I could feel for her, but she's not special, either - nothing noteworthy about her, really. I got annoyed with her a few times when she doesn't see why people are upset with her - of course it's not her fault, but you have to admit it's got to be hard to accept someone who's now sleeping in your missing friend or classmate's bed, hanging out with the people your missing friend or classmate hung out with, and liking your missing friend or classmate's boyfriend. She got upset when people blamed her and said she as trying to replace Becca, and while of course it's not her fault, I would have liked to see her show some more sympathy towards those who lost Becca.

This book is partially written from Becca's point of view, which I didn't know beforehand. She's a fascinating character. I didn't like her - she's a manipulative bitch who would do anything to get attention, only thinks of herself and doesn't care whom she hurts by trying to get what she wants - but I was strangely mesmerized by her, like the other characters were, too. I found myself enjoying her chapter's more than the new girl's, even though that might just be because of the mystery aspect - I wanted to find out what happened to her, and the mystery is really what kept me turning the pages.

The secondary characters didn't really do it for me, and the relationships between the characters are strange. I got annoyed at Max and the new girl and how they couldn't make up their minds. Usually, I'm a fan of forbidden romance, but the chemistry is missing; there's no spark to their relationship. And there's no chemistry between Becca and Max. I guess that's the point, but there's no real chemistry between Becca and Johnny, either, and Johnny is just a very bland character. Most of the secondary characters are bland and boring - Julia, Madison, Cam and Blake don't seem to have any personalities of their own. Dana is the only really interesting character - I would have liked to know more about her relationship with Becca and seen some more development in her relationship with the new girl. The whole crowd at the boarding school acted strangely, and the rumors they make up about Becca's disappearance are just weird. For example, they think she might be pregnant, but how would that work? The police and Becca's parents don't know where she is, and wouldn't she have gone home if she wanted to hide her pregnancy from the people at school? Those theories just didn't make sense to me.

I know, my review is not what you'd call coherent - just lots of paragraphs about something I liked and something I disliked about New Girl, with no real connections of the paragraphs. I'm sorry, but that's exactly how I feel about this book - there are things I loved and things I hated. While it's not going to be one of my favorites, mainly because the unrealistic background and bland characters, I do recommend this book - a strong, intriguing mystery storyline makes New Girl worth reading.

If you've read this book, what did you think?


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