30 January 2012

(ARC) YA Book Review: New Girl by Paige Harbison

Release Date: 31 January 2012
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

Goodreads description:
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.
My Thoughts...

This book started out fairly solid with well-crafted descriptions of lush scenery, inner-turmoil, and the shock of being the "new girl," but rather quickly devolved into something that I found myself both liking and hating at the same time.  The writing really pulled me into the story at the beginning and it was really the writing with its quick pacing that truly kept me turning the pages.

I'm generally a stickler for characters--9 out of 10 times that is a make or break issue for me with a book.  I'm not saying that I have to "like" the characters, but I have to feel something for them--even if that something is hate and loathing.  The characters in New Girl fell flat for me, which contributed greatly to my sense of disappointment with this story.  The "new girl" MC (whose name isn't revealed until the end and I won't use so I don't spoil it) is a fairly relateable character and I honestly felt bad for the situation that she was thrown into at Manderly. I felt like her reactions to most situations felt authentic.  She wasn't really my problem character.  For me, the other characters (basically all of them) fell flat for one reason or another.  The two main love interests didn't capture my imagination and I couldn't see liking either one of them.  Dana was simply crazy, and while I wanted her craziness and mystery to evolve into a genuine interest in her, it never happened for me. She was simply annoying.  And don't get me started on Becca, who I couldn't even really make myself feel sorry for even though she was clearly dealing (or, really, NOT dealing) with intense personal stuff that no one knew about.

I can't put together my thoughts on this novel without at least mentioning the sex and alcohol use. Generally, I'm someone who overlooks this kind of stuff in novels because let's face it--teens DO drink and have sex.  My issue with this particular storyline is that it seemed like that was all they really did--it seemed way overdone. And then all the sex scenes fade to black?  I know that seems like I'm taking a weird stance but if you're characters are promiscuous--it's part of their personality--then in my mind making every sex/make-out scene completely fade-to-black seems out of character.

The writing is overall not bad.  There were moments where POVs switched or time jumped that caught me off guard but overall the story flowed fairly smoothly and held my attention. Also, as someone unfamiliar with Rebecca (which this is a retelling of), I did a little research (read: I read a Wikipedia article) on the original story and in my estimation, Ms. Harbison has put together a successful retelling, moving it into a YA-appropriate setting, maintaining basic plotlines, and creating a new story that could appeal to both readers familiar and unfamiliar with the story.  I enjoyed getting both Becca and the new girl's POVs as it added depth to the story that would have been significantly lacking otherwise.  In the end, however, this book was simply not as fabulous as a read as I had hoped it would be...


Heidi said...

I was Waiting for your review. We agreed on our dislikes for sure. You really should read Rebecca. It is one lf those books that is still good after all these years. I am glad I am not the only one disturbed by the excessive sex and drinking in this one.

Ashelynn @ Gypsy Book Reviews said...

I couldn't get through the first couple of pages. And her name isn't revealed until the end of the book?? Hm, I may need to pester my library to get this one OR start reading some spoiler reviews. he he.

Giselleco said...

I'm reading this next and by all these so-so reviews I'm not really looking forwardd to this O_O But maybe my low expectations will make me like it more!? I doubt it. I'm big on characters so not too sure.

Erin W. said...

This book - for me - was one you just LOVE to hate. Despite my hate toward characters I just couldn't help but love the story too. No other book has done that too me. Anyway great and honest review.

Reflections of a Bookaholic said...

I'm a big character person as well.  I hate when I run into flat characters.  I agree that is so much better to feel something for a character even if you don't love them

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