Friday, 31 August 2012

New Girl - Paige Harbison

Yesterday, I posted my review of Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier which I loved.
I wasn't going to write a review for that book until I read this.

When I found out this was a modern retelling of Rebecca, I was interested straight away especially with my small connection to the original title.
I have to admit that it took me a while to read this book as I felt I should read the original before going for a retelling. So when I caught the Rebecca fever after reading du Maurier's gothic romance, I decided it was time to try New Girl.

These are the US and UK covers. In all honesty, I cringe at the bright colours and just childish feel of the UK cover (right). I mean where in the book does she wear stripy socks and pink shoes? The US cover (left) is much more understated and is recognisable for anyone that had read the book. I prefer it so much more.

Synopsis: New Girl starts at the prestigious private Manderley Academy in her last year of high school, this has been her dream school since she was 13. However, she is not as welcomed as she might have hoped as she took the only place left open when Becca Normandy went missing four months previously. Living in the same room, same bed, same roommate, New Girl finds herself being constantly compared to the popular, pretty Becca. With everyone seeming to be blaming her for Becca's disappearance, New Girl finds comfort in the only person who doesn't - Max Holloway - Becca's boyfriend when she disappeared. She is told they were madly in love and New Girl is merely replacing her until she comes back. Because everyone thinks she is still alive, waiting for the right moment to return...

**I'm going to say now that I think some of things I am going to say may be interpreted as harsh and mean. I do not mean it in an offensive way - I am merely displaying my thoughts. If you have any issues with the following, please do feel free to let me know and I will correct them. I am just being honest**

My main thought after reading this is that Daphne Du Maurier must be turning in her grave. 

I really wanted to like this. I love contemporary. I love a little romance. And it's based on a novel which I have a new-found love for. This should have been great. However, I found it far from great.

Okay, there were some good bits. I mean, it can't have been that bad with the fact I read to the end. Despite my main emotions and opinions throughout reading, I was involved in the plot - I did want to know how it ended. I did want to see what had happened to Becca. I did want to see the outcome for the main protagonist greatly. I did want her and Max to get together in the end. So, in that aspect, this book was good. The plot does suck you in a little and if all the things I didn't like about this book (which I will come onto later) weren't there, I think I would love and cherish this book much more. In fairness, Paige Harbison sucked me into the story - that's one of the main things to do when writing, right?

So that's the main good thing I found about this book. However, all the bad things I didn't like quite possibly weigh down that. I'm just going to list them because that will stop my rambling.

  • I found it all a bit forced and fake. This was not real life. Far from it. I didn't feel like any of the events that happened in this book would ever happen. The way I interpreted the blurb was that this being a modern retelling would also make it even more relatable for a new generation. Rebecca was a hit with its generation and parts of the novel can still be used as examples today. That was one of the things that made it a bestseller - it's relatability. That aspect was totally lost here. Some events seemed totally random and I was lost at points when this happened. It just felt like the novel hadn't been totally thought through. 
  • Moving on from the above, the writing. What sums it up for me is what Ria from The Beaucoup Review said about this: 'I found that there wasn't enough detail in the writing, at all. It seemed like a story plot, or a list- this happened, then this happened and 3 months later this happened. The lack of detail, for me, kind of ruined the story'. That is true. This, for me, wasn't a story or a plot or anything. It was an episodic chapter of events that happen to link to one another. 
  • I hated most of the characters. No, every single one. I can rant for a long time on these characters. I hated Rebecca, sorry Becca. I hated Max. I hated the protagonist! The only one I vaguely liked was Blake, only because I want her as my best friend. I feel like I should hate Max and Rebecca - you do at points throughout the original. But Becca? Serious bitch in this. I'm glad Harbison has kept the revelation of Rebecca for me of being a lovely, popular person on the surface but actually done so much damage. I felt I should like the heroine, you're supposed to feel for her right? I didn't. I thought her frivilous, silly and just really unrelatable. She also seemed to change personalities from her Florida self to her Manderley self. It just seemed all a bit bizarre.
  • How is this based on Rebecca? The thing that drew me to this book was the fact it was based on a classic, Rebecca. Although, it is clear from reading both books that New Girl's plot and a limited amount of characters is loosely based around Rebecca, there was too much that was so far from Rebecca. The ending was like the 'alternative ending' to Rebecca that nearly happens in the original. Throughout reading it felt that the author had taken the basic plot of Rebecca, the setting and some of the names and made it an entirely different story. The original is a story of finding yourself and how secrets can twist things etc - THIS...not so much. Coming away from this book, this book was more about popularity and fitting in - like so many YA novels. 
  • Max and New Girl's relationship. IT WASN'T A RELATIONSHIP. Looking at their relationship throughout the novel, it didn't seem like one. They hardly knew each other and interacted maybe twice before they were suddenly a couple. It just seemed a bit more faked and forced. There was no romance. 
  • The tributes to Rebecca just...didn't work. At all. At first, with the description of Manderley Academy, I was thinking 'Oh great! They're going to have lots of little tributes that only readers of Rebecca will understand!'. Yeah that did happen. But that was as far as my excitement went. The characters had similar names to those in the original - Max Holloway (erm, what happened to de Winter?), Becca, Dana Veers (very clever) and then Johnny and Blake came along and I just got so confused. It took me the whole book to realise they were Jack Favell and Beatrice (Max's sister in Rebecca). Why change the names? Yes, these are more modern but surely Jack would be okay? Then, two teachers were named Van Hopper and Crawley, like from Rebecca. But they seemed pointless. Crawley, I felt should have been in it more. And Van Hopper? She appears once telling the class how they read a book a week and I was hoping, praying, that one time the book would be Rebecca. But she never appeared again, so that never happened. It was just so disappointing.
I think I may be coming from another point of view compared to most bloggers who have reviewed this. I have read and loved Rebecca and having read this straight afterwards with the plot fresh, it turned into more of a disappointment. 
I really wanted to love this book and there are good parts that I have mentioned within it. I also liked the double layer of Becca. I found Becca too extreme, too unlifelike. But I still liked to see this nice and not nice nature of hers. 
It was also nice to see her point of view on events that were relatable to what was happening to New Girl in the alternating chapter voices. Also, although not done in Rebecca, I did smile when New Girl's real name is revealed, especially as I have a friend of THAT name. It was so sudden! 

I had to start reading this as a unique different story and ignore the infuriating references to Rebecca and from that point of view, I may have liked this slightly more. I think I've outlined, hopefully without ranting, why I didn't like this book. The writing, the characters, just the plot didn't work for me, but that's not to say it won't work for someone else. Other bloggers have loved this. I just didn't. A lot. 

I give it a 2 out of 5

Thank you to the publisher for allowing me to view the e-galley via Netgalley

Pages: 320
Publisher: Harlequin Teen 
Challenges: None


  1. This was never going to compare with "Rebecca." Hmmm. A bit like Mrs de Winter - or "New Girl" now I come to think of it, though I'm sure Ms Harbison never intended life to imitate art in that way.

  2. You do rip into it a fair bit - and you have all the rights to do so. You are a book blogger, and if your taste tells you that you don't like it, then you are allowed to tell the world. That's what the blog is for. Nobody's gonna be mad at you for your opinion (I can't imagine at least). Still you give the book such a good score, in comparison, I gotta say (or is this the score it gets when you remove the whole Rebecca-reference idea while reading?)

    1. Thank you. I only put the warning at the beginning but recently in the book blogosphere, there have been some big arguments and debates about bloggers and authors after someone posted a negative review on Goodreads and the author and publicist kind of slammed the blogger etc. So it was a little message to Paige Harbison saying 'This is what I think. Nothing against you individually'.

      2 out of 5 is a good score? I feel bad about giving low scores to books even how ever much I hated them. Like I can rant and talk about my hate for things but I couldn't score how much my hate sank. When writing this review, I was trying to see the book from a 'I have never read Rebecca' angle so I guess, yeah that probably includes that.


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