New Girl by Paige Harbison Review


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.

Paperback, 304 pages
Expected publication: January 31st 2012 by HarlequinTeen (goodreads)

Based on advanced readers copy

I finished this book in a day. 25 hours. So a day in a half. Regardless my point is that I could not put it down until I read every last word. Paige Harbison's writing style demands your attention, her characters crave to be analyzed and the mystery of Becca Normandy will keep you glued to the pages. This is definitely one of my favorite reads of this year. 

New Girl seems to play tribute to the novel Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier and even though I have never read Rebecca, I did go over the summary and New Girl seems like a very clever idea. 

Our main character is in her senior year of high school, living it up in her hometown in Florida. Going to the beach, chilling with her best friend, and hanging out with her family until her parents deliver some great news: she's going to boarding school. Crossing a time zone, she is welcomed to Manderly with rumors. The reason why she got into Manderly was because a student, Becca Normandy, has been missing for months now, and no one knows if she is dead or alive. Even though Becca is gone, she seems to be more present with each day that passes.

The story follows 'the new girl,' whose name you do not learn until the very last page of the  book. She has been accepted to Manderly Academy after Becca disappears but the entire student body only sees her as someone who wishes to replace the Mandery sweetheart. The reader will struggle with the new girl as she tries to establish an identity at a school that doesn't want to accept her. The plot is fast paced with twists and turns that kept me glued to the pages. I had to know what happened to Becca and how she became Manderly's sweetheart! 

All of the characters were wonderfully in depth, especially the mysterious Becca who probably need two novels just to analyze her inner workings. I also loved how strong our new girl was. Even when life handed her lemons, she made lemonade and added a shot of vodka for the hell of it. She stood up for herself, she went after what she wanted, and that gets major kudos from me. The rest of the characters played out like the average CW show with the guy she shouldn't have, the girls who maybe weren't really  her friends, the psycho roommate and the boy that wants her. Although it was formulaic it worked. All of the characters complemented each other and each character held onto a piece of Rebecca that the new girl would need to unravel the mystery around her. 

The writing style was very current and very true to how today's youth both speaks and thinks. Riddled with pop culture references like Jersey Shore (one I'm ashamed to have recognized), Harbison has no problem tapping into the mind of the average 17 year old who is wrought with issues like boys, schools, and missing pretty girls. I especially loved that Paige Harbison included chapters from the previous year of Manderly so that we could get to know Becca as we witness how others in present day Manderly students are affected by her disappearance. We also see how some scenes are not painted as prettily as others remember them to be. 

I adored this book. I did not know what to expect until the very last chapters. Was Becca dead? Was she haunting the school? Was she alive? Was she stalking the new girl who has taken her place? So many questions and for the most part, we are given the answers that we crave. There are only one or two questions that are left unanswered which bothered me a little, but it did not take away from my overall experience.

One thing that did make me raise an eyebrow was how the author dealt with sex. Yes some of the characters have sex, and seeing how I read quite a few adult novels as well, I'm used to flowery and detailed language to describe the act. I guess that doesn't happen to often in the Young Adult genre. Instead of the poetry and obscure terminology that I used to with the adult romance genre, Harbison write one simple phrase to indicate that the deed was being done: "they did it." Perhaps it's just me but it made me feel a bit awkward to have sexual acts described as "she/they/he did it" and to be done with it. But hey that's just me. 

I recommend this for any one of loves teen drama like Gossip Girls. And I especially recommend this novel for those who are fans of either Pretty Little Liars or The Lying Game. 

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