22 Jun 2012

NEW GIRL - PAIGE HARBISON

SUMMARY
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

REVIEW
I cannot tell you how much this book annoyed me. Not the best start to a review I'll admit. I'm going to try my best to not compare this to Rebecca, because I have to admit that it makes me cringe to think this could stand up to it. Rebecca is a modern Gothic classic whereas this, well, isn't.

It is split, on the whole, between 'New Girl's and Becca's narrative, in first and third person respectively. This is probably the best format for this type of novel as it allows the reader to see just why EVERYONE had come to love Becca and miss her so much.

It started well for me. The build up to the 'New Girl's arrival at Manderley is ok, ignoring the fact her parents are a little flat and one dimensional. It establishes her character well, her love of the Florida weather and its style. She's timid and comfortable in the life she has and does not initially want to leave to go to this new school just for a couple of years.

Manderley itself has no real presence and I feel Harbison has missed a trick by not using it more. The people there, however, are far from what you would expect from private school pupils. The girls are unbelievably shallow. Every couple of pages talk about sex or boys or 'who fancies who'. Yes, this happens with teenagers but no where near to the extend of this. It's so repetitive. And if this didn't annoy me enough they are always drinking or drunk or talking about how drinking is the answer to everything.



This is the first major problem I had with the novel. There is a massive sense of warped self-esteem issues. Yeah, teens cave to peer pressure, and they do drink, and yeah some even try drugs but there is no voice of reason in this book. It all seems normal. Underage drinking is a serious issue and I really feel it shouldn't be taken so lightly. Obviously I have to point out that this is strictly my own opinion. The main narrator's attitude to drinking is that she didn't want to drink because last time she did she was sick, and that was the only reservation she really has. I don't quite understand why there is no character introduced that at least acts as the voice of responsibility. I also can't believe that the teachers at a private school have barely any knowledge of what their students are doing. Very few of the supporting characters are developed and become and amalgamation of dull people playing drinking games.

The second problem I have is its attitude to sex. I'm assuming that all the characters are above the age of consent so that isn't really the issue. What annoyed me again was pretty much the same as with the 'alcoholism', its that no one in the book ever really mentions sexual health, contraception, the possibility of STI's, or anything to that effect. Again there is no educational voice. My opinion is that if a book is aimed at people of an impressionable age you should be aware of what you might accidentally be advocating or normalising. What might be Becca and 'New Girl's experience may not be the same for other girls reading this book. It certainly wasn't my experience. I honestly felt there needed to be a balancing voice.

My third problem is possibly a culmination of the first two presented in the form of Becca. I'm not sure if I was actually supposed to like her because she is so confident that maybe its endearing but I didn't and I even struggled to feel sorry for her. She's a manipulator, and I cannot believe for a second that there was not one person in that school who didn't like her. I didn't like her and I can't be on my own. I couldn't understand why the girls followed her like sheep instead of collectively shutting her out. She was technically a threat to everything they had - especially their boyfriends.

I really wanted to like it. I ordered it in especially from work in order to read and review it but I was utterly disappointed. I take no pleasure what so ever in writing bad reviews but there was no way I could write a good one about this, it got under my skin too much.

I don't want people to go away from reading this and think 'nah, I'll skip it' because there might be something in it for you that I just didn't see. I gave it 2 stars because it was circulative: something happens, girl gets drunk, fight happens, girl goes home - repeat. I wanted so much more. I wanted it to be a thriller, I want it to be chilling and I wanted to love it as much as I loved Rebecca but they are utterly incomparable apart from New Girl borrowing its basic structure. Even the dress scene from Rebecca was completely underplayed. I can't help but feel that New Girl misses not only the mark but the point too.

I didn't give this one star because I didn't find its attitude to morals as bad as Twilight. It might sound like a strange reason but thats really how I saw it. 
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