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 Manderley 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 definitely not like anything I've ever read before. I know that it is a kind of modern retelling of Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca, but A) I haven't read Rebecca, so this is lost on me, and B) this is a YA contemporary retelling and has an entirely unique style.
I was immediately drawn into the story. Paige's written style is so relaxed and fluent, yet so descriptive and emotive that the book is a really easy one to get lost in - and get lost, I did.
I loved the contrast at the beginning of the book between 'New Girl's' old life, back in Florida, and the seemingly dull and drab scene we're presented with when she arrives at Manderley in New Hampshire.
I also loved the contrast between her character and Becca's, once her point of view was introduced. Their characters were, in some ways, quite similar; 'New Girl' was popular at home, as Becca was at Manderley, and they both had some kind of relationship with the same two boys, Max and Johnny - although the boy they both truly liked was different from the other (Becca's true feelings were a little harder to figure out at first - until she comes to the realisation of who it is she actually likes).
Their voices were so distinct from one another that, even without the chapter headers telling us which character it was, I would have been able to tell quite quickly - especially once we were a little way into the story, and we know them a little better.
I also loved that when the story switched point of view, we also switched between the past and the present - the present being New Girl's point of view, and the past being Becca's. It meant that I could hear New Girl's story in the present, but also piece the past together at the same time.
The chapters were not equally divided between the two characters, as you might expect. Instead, we saw more of the story in the present, which I quite liked. It meant that the story remained primarily about New Girl, and how the events of the past were effecting her in the future, even though she had nothing to do with it.
As you may already have guessed, 'New Girl', the protagonist of the novel, is not called by her actual name until the very end of the book. Even then, we only see her name once, and it stands out so much that I can tell you (from memory) that it is on page 313 of the UK edition (but don't go peeking - read the book until you find it, otherwise you won't get the full impact of it - and it's a big one!).
At the beginning, I will mention that the characters at the school calling her 'New Girl' did feel a little bit awkward, and maybe even a tiny bit forced - but once she'd met everyone, they would just start talking to her, and this didn't matter any more. New Girl's point of view was also written in first person (compared to Becca's point of view being written in third), which meant that the lack of her real name was not all that obvious, until you read her name at the end of the book and realise you've never seen it before.
New Girl took on such an epic personal journey throughout the course of the novel! She went from being insecure and feeling as though she was living in Becca's shadow, but eventually she came to the realisation that she was her own person, and that she was not going to be compared to Becca just because she took her open place at the school. I loved the strength that this took, and it really showed her to be a brave, and (in the end) self-assured person. She knew she was a likeable person, and that she was worth knowing, so she decided to ignore the whispers and the gossip, stop caring about what other people thought, and be herself. Such strength!
We also see a change in her attitude to wider life in general. At the beginning of the novel, her mind is set on going to Florida State University, where the rest of her friends are going, and where her family lives. It was the safe option, where she knew she'd be happy and surrounded by the people she'd known all her life. But then, with everything she experiences at Manderley, and her new-found inner-strength, she begins to consider the other school she got accepted into - Boston University - a world away from Florida, just as Manderley is. So she has definitely been on a huge personal journey!
Her character was also so believable, that I ended up genuinely feeling every single emotion with her. When she was upset, so was I, when she was happy to the point of tears, so was I - and when she was frustrated? I definitely was too!
She was a very real person to me, even before I had read half of the novel.
To some extent, this is the same with the rest of the characters in the book, and they are definitely all very distinct from one another, but I didn't feel the same way about the others characters, as I did for New Girl (although Max was quite close...).
The last thing I feel I really need to mention is that the plot was not predictable. Obviously there is not a great deal to predict, but there is the question of, and the mystery behind, what happened to Becca Normandy, the girl that went missing. I had a feeling that the book would end in the way it did, but it was entirely a guess, really. I still found myself wondering about whether or not she was going to come back or not. There are moments when you believe she could be back at any moment, and others when you don't believe it at all. You do kind of expect the novel to end in the way that it does, but somehow it still manages to come as a mild shock, when the reality of what truly happens sinks in (to the both the characters in the novel, and to you).
Honestly, if you haven't gleaned from all of this that I absolutely adored this novel, what on Earth have you been reading?! I don't have enough words to praise this novel to the extent that I would like to!
New Girl is a thrilling, mysterious and highly emotion ride that will have you yearning for more! I recommend it to all fans of YA (or even adult) contemporary fiction, but would implore all of you to try it - it's definitely worth it!
We are lucky enough, here at Pen to Paper, to have a few, quick Q&As with Paige Harbison, the author of New Girl and her earlier novel Here Lies Bridget, as part of the Mira Ink New Girl blog tour.
So I'd love to be able to welcome Paige to you!
What was it that made you choose Rebecca as a story to retell in a modern setting?
I was going through a Hitchcock phase, actually! I was watching the movies and watching old Twilight Zones during a particularly rainy month with a friend, and I just got so caught up in that creepy, spooky, moody mood. I thought of Rebecca, all about one woman’s desire to be as good as another woman, and I was like…a girl is jealous of a girl and it’s fuelled by her interest in a guy? High school! I’d loved the book when I was younger, and the fact that it’s a classic that has been overlooked in this, the era of remakes, seemed like a crime.
It’s hard to say. I think they both play up a different aspect of the story. I think the US version does a good job of setting the mood, but I think the UK does a good job of luring you in by posing as a much lighter story than it actually is.
Are any of the characters in the book based on you, or someone you know?
They both are, in a way. In high school, I had some Becca-like qualities. I appeared to be a little more unfeeling and cold than I actually felt. I had a major defensive wall built up so that no one could affect me, no matter what I did. But the new girl and I shared a lot of latent fears and anxieties.
|Ronan and Moretz as New Girl & Becca|
Saoirse Ronan could do a very good job I think playing the new girl. She is sweet looking, but has a kick to her. Chloe Grace Moretz would be a good Becca.
Do you have plans for any further books? And if so, can you tell us something about them?
I am working on my next book now. I can’t say too much, but that it delves into the friendship between two girls that become driven apart by their own personal fears made worse by a boy and a discovery in a creepy shop.