Zombie, post-apocalyptic and dystopian books are like shoes - you can never have enough.
I have to start this review with a disclaimer. I’m not a huge reader of YA fiction, and if I do read YA it tends to be post-apocalyptic or dystopic, contemporary is something that I only really read in my teens. But when I saw New Girl was an interpretation of Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier I was intrigued, so still with some trepidation I started to read…
New Girl starts with new girl (her name is revealed right at the end of the book, so for the purposes of the review, I’m going to call her NG), who has fantasized of attending a big old boarding school since reading Harry Potter, being accepted into Manderley which is located far away from her home town in Florida. Upon arriving things seem a little “weird”, and she quickly learns that as well as being the new girl in school, she is also replacing Becca, who mysteriously disappeared before the summer break. As the story progresses, more of Becca’s story is revealed and NG struggles with the pressure (and nastiness) of being the “replacement” for a beloved classmate and friend.
The story of New Girl is intriguing, captivating and well-written and is in first person POV for NG and third person POV for Becca. I was constantly drawn back to the story and every time I was forced to put it down I just wanted to get back to reading. Ms. Harbison’s writing style is near faultless and matched the story perfectly.
What I liked best about New Girl was the story, but also the characters of NG and Becca. Although completely different in their lives and behaviors, there are common themes of peer acceptation, self-identity and isolation. NG is an average, nice girl and as a reader I liked her immensely while simultaneously feeling sympathy toward her situation. The romance between NG and Max could have been built up a little further, but it wasn’t a main feature of the book for me.
The only thing that stopped me giving this book 5 stars is the ending – it felt a little rushed and things fell a little too neatly into place. However I will definitely be reading more of Ms Harbison’s work in the future.
Despite my hesitation when it came to New Girl, I enjoyed it far more than I thought I would. It is important to point out that there is alcohol, some drug use and “funky-time” in this book which does mean it is aimed at the older end of the YA spectrum. I’m not a prude when it comes to books, so this wasn’t even an issue for me, but if you are looking for a clean YA read, you may struggle with New Girl.