New Girl ends up at Manderly boarding school in her senior year after her parents apply for her and she’s finally accepted. The problem is she no longer has a desire to go to boarding school and leave her comfy and stable life behind but she doesn’t want to hurt her parent’s feelings and ruin their excitement. So she goes convincing herself it’s only one year and then she’ll be going to college with her best friend Leah, back in Florida where she belongs. Once at Manderly she realizes she’s not just the “new girl” she’s the only new student. A spot only opened up for her because Rebecca, another student disappeared without a trace.
*[New Girl's Rebecca will henceforth be referred to as Becca]
When the new girl arrives to her dorm all of Becca’s things are as she left it – even her bed is made up with her bed spread and pillow. Her photos are on the walls. Now, I understand this was a crucial part of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca; however, I just don’t buy this happening at Manderly the boarding school. If Becca was missing with no clues to her whereabouts but they left her things in her room – expecting her to return – then they wouldn’t have given her place away to a new student. Since they did offer her place to someone else, I have no doubt they would’ve removed her things from the room and either sent them back to her parents or stored them elsewhere.
Unlike in Rebecca where we know from the little things people say , from the possessions she had and the house she kept, in New Girl we go back in time to when Becca was the “new girl” – and we learn quite a bit about her – she’s brazen, impulsive, teetering on reckless, scheming, manipulative -she knows what she wants and does whatever she thinks it takes to get it; she loves attention but doesn’t like sharing the spotlight for too long unless it serves her purposes. All in all, I kind of found myself disliking her character. I wouldn’t say hate, that’s too strong of a word, but definitely dislike.
There were distinct differences from Rebecca that did stand out to me – in New Girl we got to know Becca so much more as a person because of the flashbacks and in that way she wasn’t such a mystery as Du Maurier’s Rebecca. I think because there was more information given that we lost some of that biting-your-fingernails- suspense and deep sense of foreboding that Rebecca is so famous for.
I really hate to admit this but I sincerely disliked most of the book. The last 100 pages seemed to drag on; it wasn’t until the last 10 pages or so that I felt a pang of liking – or at least forgiving it for not being able to measure up.
My personal recommendation: for those who haven’t yet read Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier DON’T read it before reading New Girl. I feel like you’ll be setting yourself up for disappointment if you read Rebecca first and then read New Girl. I think if I hadn’t read Rebecca in the past that I would’ve enjoyed New Girl more. Instead I could not help but make comparisons – for or not since New Girl is being touted as a modern rendition of Rebecca – and it most definitely is. It’s just a story like Rebecca is so hard to measure up to – nearly impossible.
The irony is not lost on me that this whole book is about one girl being compared to and comparing herself, to another and yet I couldn’t help but compare the two books. Overall, I think New Girl is definitely a modern twist to the classic tale of Rebecca, however New Girl does not spark the same emotion or gut reactions in me that the original did and seemed altogether too shallow.
I did enjoy the end. It was filled with promise; I just wish the ride to that conclusion had been more white knuckled.
I am interested in reading Harbison’s other books because she is definitely not a bad writer.
So I’m rating New Girl a 2.9
*Review Copy provided free of charge by the publisher in exchange for a fair review. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.
*Even though I make use of the blockquote feature, I do so here merely for visual effect, the blurb is my own creation and not taken from any other source.