New Girl by Paige Harbison
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Synopsis from Goodreads:
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.
New Girl is based loosely on Daphne Du Maurier's classic tale Rebecca, but has been updated and morphed into a teenage coming of age, high school story- set in the prestigious Manderley Academy. Many of the names of the characters are the same, and they share a lot of the same characteristics, but a lot about the basic plotline has also been changed as well, so even if you know the original storyline, it won't be as you expect.
The main character transfers to a new school when a place becomes available after the disappearance of a popular student. Like in the original Rebecca story, New Girl is told in the first person and we don't find out the main character's name. This just serves to empahasise how insignificant the main character always feels, and how she feels she can never live up to her impression of the lost girl, in whose shadow she now always lives.
Becca's photos are still on the wall, her friends are still devastated and still talk about all the things they used to do, and still uphold the traditions that she started. The "New Girl", as she is known, feels like she is expected to but can never fill Becca's shoes- sharing with her hostile old rommate who resents her being there, and even starting to fall for Becca's ex-boyfriend. All the while people are telling her that she will never be Becca. I loved seeing the dual perspectives between the New Girl and the flashbacks of Becca from a year before, gradually revealing that things with Becca might not have been what they appeared on the surface.
This is a dark and gritty contemporary story, with real modern teenagers and deals with issues of depression, bullying, teenage relationships, alcohol and drug use, and suicide. There is one particularly harrowing scene (the Lulu scene) that will haunt my nightmares for a long while. But overall I liked this book. It's a well- written story and it sucked me into it, keeping up the mystery and suspense and keeping me guessing and theorising right up until the end. The intriguing mystery surrounding Becca's disappearance was a constant source of tension, and the not knowing if she was alive and coming back, or if she had been killed. If she was murdered there might have been a few different suspects. Chilling and creepy- a good contemporary story.
Thanks to Harlequin publishers and Netgalley for the review copy.