New Girl by Paige Harbison Review

Monday, February 6, 2012

Title: New Girl
Author: Paige Harbison (Twitter)
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publish Date: January 31, 2012
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Pages: 304 Pages
Source: Publisher

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.

She’s the New Girl. It’s hard to be that girl, in and of itself, but it’s even harder when the It girl disappears and her absence opens the spot for the new girl at the prestigious school. Life is complicated and messy at Manderly Academy with conniving, lying and deceitful students, dark secrets and a messy underbelly that, for some reason, the new girl has become a part of. For some reason though, the New Girl is slipping into Becca’s shoes. It’s both a gift and a curse though because if, God forbit, Becca ever returns, the New Girl is going to have to retreat into the shadows again because Becca rules Manderly…and a new girl is always a new girl.

New Girl is a treacherous take on contemporary fiction, brimming with twists and turns that threaten to send the story spiraling out of control at any given second. This is the second novel I’ve read by Paige Harbison, and it’s no less challenging than the first. The author is skilled at crafting artfully dislikable characters, which I’m assuming was her intention. There’s a deep-seeded animosity that fuels New Girl along, spreading the characters thin through intense angst and discord. Rather than give us the calm before the storm that we seek, New Girl thrusts the reader into a full-on onslaught of bitter teenage rivalry and sinks its teeth into you from the start.

New Girl was quite the challenging read for me. I’m going to state that outright because I have an extremely difficult time becoming invested in largely unapproachable characters. That said, there were a few breaths of fresh air throughout. The “New Girl,” herself, was actually a rather sweet character. Though we don’t learn her name until the very end of the book, which was either really clever or completely convoluted (I haven’t quite decided), the new girl shields us from the torment that Becca and her cronies wield daily. Becca was one of those characters that I wanted to kick in the face…multiple times. Her cruelty, manipulative nature and overall foul demeanor made me loathe her from the start, and I struggled to reconcile with the fact that everyone seemed entirely content to continue doing her bidding despite it. She, quite literally, reigned over the school, and that was difficult for me to read. Furthermore, there was a lot of weakness going on with many of the characters. For instance, the new girl very frequently caved to Max’s insistence, making her appear weak. I wanted to like Max and the new girl’s blossoming romance, but because of the stop-and-go nature of it, the dominant vs. submissive personalities and the weakness I saw throughout, I just couldn’t relate. At times, New Girl was over-the-top outrageously dramatic, then completely flat at other times. I felt that changing from the past to the present, as well as the switch between perspectives was a gutsy move for a novel like New Girl and, ultimately, it lost me because I felt the novel was too stunted to carry the weight of the challenge.

Overall, New Girl was a pretty well-written novel, though I struggled to find the true meaning of the book. I enjoy a challenge, but for me, it was too messy to carry the weight of such heavy drama. Clever in much of its approach to bullying and teenage relationships/drama though, New Girl will definitely find its place in many a YA shelf. I give it a 2 out of 5, and I recommend it to fans of YA, especially those who enjoy contemporary fiction and the novel, Here Lies Bridget.

I received this book free of charge from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This, in no way, affected my opinion or review of this book.


  1. It appears we are on the same page with a few things. I also gave New Girl two stars. I thought this book had potential but didn't quite live up to it. Thanks for the honest, insightful review!

  2. You guys should read the book that this one was a retelling of: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. (That's why "New Girl" is unnamed until the end.) This was actually a fairly decent modern retelling of an old British classic. =) What happened to Becca in this book is NOTHING like what happened to the original character. (That alone makes the original worth reading!)

  3. BTW, this was a great review of the book. You captured the essence of the story perfectly.

  4. Oh...ok not the book for me. I trust your judgment when it comes to YA

  5. I felt the same when I read New Girl. It was an interesting novel, very well-written, but it was also frustrating and slightly confusing and irritating.

  6. This does not bode well for me. I'm 10% into the book as I have been for over a month. I can't seem to break into it and I really need to get it read and finished. It sounds like the back and forth time zones really stump the novel and to be honest, the only part I've reached where that happened, confused me to death. I thought I'd skipped something which is pretty hard to do on a Kindle. Excellent review, Melissa. You hit on so many excellent points.

    And, also, while I've never read Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (which is what this book was retold from), you never do find out the New Girl's name in that book so it's not surprising it takes so long to discover it in this one. *sigh* I'm not especially looking forward to finishing this one.

  7. I didn't think this one was for me and your review has confirmed it. There is too much going on in this novel that I would find unappealing.

  8. I agree with everything you say here! I couldn't stand Becca and her manipulative, bossy and extremely cocky attitude, and the ways in which everyone seemed to worship her. I also felt that the new girl was weak and pathetic, and the two characters were such polar opposites that switching perspectives every chapter just made it confusing, without throwing in the tense and 1st/3rd person changes. And not knowing new girl's name was extremely frustrating, I thought! In the end I wasn't able to finish - I had to give up, unfortunately... Anyways, brilliant review, Melissa! :)

  9. Oh I'm so sad you couldn't enjoy it! But I understand your reasoning! I myself really enjoyed it and found it refreshing despite the fact that some characters were not so likable. "New Girl" made it up for - I liked her!
    Also I never read Rebecca and I didn't even know it was a sort of retelling... Woops! Great Review though - although I enjoyed the suspense and the dual POV.

  10. We're definitely in agreement on this one! New Girl was actually a DNF for me, I made it about 150 pages in before I gave up. I couldn't get past my dislike for the characters and their actions.

  11. I've read lots of reviews for this book and I'm pretty certain it's not for me. The things you said and others as well has me thinking I really couldn't handle the characters. Thanks for the honest review!

  12. Fabulous review. I am intrigued by a challenging book, but sometimes a book can be too challenging. I've been reading more bad reviews than good of this one unfortunately.

  13. I've read quite a few negative reviews of this book, but I'm still kind of intrigued by it, so I haven't sworn it off completely. I can't blame you for having trouble connecting with off-putting characters...especially since I often have the same problem myself. Still, like Alison mentioned above in the comments, that fact that you say this is a challenging book intrigues me, and I think I might give it a whirl for that and that alone, though I might wait and see if the library has it.

    Great review, Melissa!

  14. I really loved this book! I do understand however that it is the type of book that you either love or hate. Loved the review :)

  15. Ack! I'm reading mixed reviews on this one. I like your honesty. I think I might pass this one up, but if anything I'll check it out at the library.

  16. Very nicely reviewed.  You did a great job of pointing out what didn't work for you.  I'm curious though, you said you struggled to find the true meaning of this book?  Is it because of the way the author divulged it all in the last couple of chapters?  I felt like the true meaning had to do with going out on a limb to experience things you are afraid of, encouraging young people not to be scared of maybe going away to college farther away then he/she may feel comfortable doing. Do you think I'm even on the right track?

  17. It's very possible you're on the right track...I, however, was so muddled by the end that I just felt too rushed, too thrown around and whatnot. Unfortunately, it just didn't work for me :/


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