Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Review: New Girl by Paige Harbison

Title:  New Girl
Author:  Paige Harbison
Genre:  Young Adult
Publisher:  HarlequinTeen
Format:  NetGalley/Kindle
Release Date:  January 31, 2012

New Girl is a contemporary young-adult novel inspired by the classic 1938 romantic suspense bestseller, Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier.

They call her “New Girl”… Ever since she arrived at the exclusive, prestigious Manderly Academy that is what she is called. The new girl, unknown, but not unnoticed, because of her, Becca Normandy. Her picture is everywhere. Her name is on everyone’s lips.  “New Girl” doesn’t compare. And the only reason she is at Manderly is because Becca is missing and a spot opened up. Everyone treats her like it is her fault. Everyone that is except Max Holloway. But everyone thinks of him as Becca’s boyfriend, only she is gone and the new girl is there, replacing her. Except it isn’t that easy. Becca’s life must have been so much better, if you believe what everyone tells you.  And maybe she is still out there, waiting to take it back (Summary adapted from the summary provided by Harlequin Teen via NetGalley).

New Girl is narrated by a young lady, who has recently been given admission to a prestigious boarding school, Manderly, in New Hampshire. After she arrives, she discovers that the only reason she is there is because another student, Becca, has gone missing.  Now she must fight against the assumption that she is trying to replace Becca, in every way imaginable.  The reader does not find out the narrator’s name until the very end of the book, so don’t think you just missed it along the way (like I did at first--*grin*). 

New Girl is probably the least enjoyable novel I have read this year. Granted, it’s early in the year, but I have read approximately ten books and this is at the top of my “I didn’t like this” list. There were several times as I read that I literally felt my mouth hanging open because I couldn’t believe that this was happening in a novel intended for the young adult audience (which we all know includes teens). Because of the nature of my job and having teenagers myself, I do read novels with an eye toward the appropriateness for tweens and teens (after all, the blog is called Mom Reads My Books). This one should NOT be read by anyone under the age of 16 and then your teen better be relatively mature. I am a pretty easy-going mom, I don’t usually censor what my girls read, but I am very hesitant to let my girls read this book.  Harbison glorified drinking, drugs and sex throughout the entire book.  The most popular girl at school turned out to be the one who slept around the most and got everyone to start partying.  If Harbison is going to continue to write for young adults, she needs to keep her audience in mind. Or start marketing her books to adults.    

While the premise of the story is great, the execution is poorly done. It is very unrealistic.  No parent in their right mind would ship their straight-A, college-bound, well-behaved daughter off to boarding school during her senior year, especially based on the fact that she last expressed interest in attending it when she was in junior high.  Teachers and parents are not as oblivious as New Girl makes them seem, or as infrequently seen as Harbison would have her readers believe. Harbison also expects the intelligent reader to believe that an entire school full of people will suddenly become hard-core partiers, despite the insinuation that most, if not all, of the students were pretty tame prior to Becca arriving at school.  There was only a cursory mention of classes and school work. This was a boarding school that seemed to forget the “school” part.  Really, it seemed as if the only thing any of the students at Manderly Academy did was party. And party some more. Basically, I found the entire premise of the story difficult to believe.    

There is not one character in this book that has any redeeming qualities. The majority of the girls in the book were vapid, horrid girls who lived to be snotty and rude. The worst character by far was the missing girl, Becca. She was mean, emotionally stunted and selfish. And those may have been her best qualities. The young men were no better; their main goal in life seemed to be to have sex. I didn’t have an ounce of sympathy for anyone in this book except for maybe the main character. Who wants to read a book in which you are unable to relate to any of the characters?

Reading New Girl was like watching a really bad episode of Gossip Girl or something similar. Every clichéd bad thing teenagers have ever done—or may ever do—was in this book:  sex, drugs, drinking, lying, swearing and general overall rule breaking.  You name it; the teens in this book did it.  I felt like I was driving past a horrific train wreck and I couldn’t look away. 

And just a minor point, but I really felt like the main character’s name reveal was very anti-climatic. After devoting so much time to reading this entire book that I really didn’t enjoy, I was hopeful that the main character’s name would be some eye-opening, light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel moment that would make the book worth reading. It wasn’t. I actually had to go back and re-read it to make sure I hadn’t missed something, because I really thought it would have some deeper meaning to tie in with the story. Ummm, yeah, so not the case; it’s just a common, everyday name.   

I will not be recommending New Girl to anyone.  It is filled with gratuitous sex, extremely bad language, and even a rape. It disturbed me and I am a grown woman who has practically seen it all.  I don’t feel that this book is appropriate for any one under the age of 17 or 18.

My grade for New Girl by Paige Harbison:


1 comment:

  1. Reading your review does remind me of Gossip Girl series! I haven't read the book yet, but I guess I would put this off my TBR shelves now! I'm not a big fan of Gossip Girl series, so I don't have much confidence that I'd love this book. Thanks for the review, it's awesome! :)


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