What if nobody knew your name?
Ever since I arrived at the prestigious Manderly Academy, I've just been known as "new girl". But I haven't gone 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. 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 must have been so much better than mine could ever be. And maybe she's still out there, waiting to take it back.
Author: Paige Harbison
Interview with Paige Harbison
Question: What inspired you to create a contemporary young adult retelling of the classic 1938 bestseller Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier?
Paige Harbison: It's just so, so creepy. I think there is so much awesome stuff out there in the YA market, but this kind of thing seems to be a vintage sort of thing of the past now. I think it should come back! Goodbye vampires, hello ghost stories!
Question: Can you talking about the writing process of New Girl?
Paige Harbison: It was difficult in a way. I knew a lot of the characters would be unlikeable. They weren't really very likeable in Rebecca. Even the unnamed, main character. In the original, she was spineless. Total doormat. I changed that, because I just didn't think it would fly in these times.
Question: How much of your inspiration comes from real life and real people?
Paige Harbison: All of it. I have never included anything that I haven't seen or heard of. My first novel got slack for the main character being such a bi***. But A) that's the point and B) people are odd creatures, that have it in them to be truly, truly evil. In New Girl, there's a lot of drinking, drugs, and sexual content. I included nothing (in that respect) that hasn't happened in my life, whether to me or someone else. Life is filled with a lot of messed up stuff, and it is very intentional to include a lot of it in my books. I don't think fiction is a place, necessarily, for playing pretend. Fiction is about taking the real world and altering it. It's not about pretending silly things. They don't just fall in love in summer vacation. Sometimes they crush on the wrong guy and there isn't some perfect other guy right there. (Max, in New Girl, is not a knight in shining armor. He's damaged and doesn't make good choices. He's not perfect for anyone right now. He's a real teenage boy.) Sometimes they just don't fit in, and being themselves doesn't help. Sometimes what drives people is half in their heads, and half reality. To me, New Girl is all truth. It's all possible.
Question: What is the best thing about creating a character like Becca?
Paige Harbison: I like her because she is just dreadful. Same reason I like Bridget, from my first book. She's terrible, but she's also not stupid. She knows what she's doing, but she's already halfway down the spiral. I love flawed characters. Particularly the ones who have a mean streak and aren't afraid to use it.
Question: What is the best thing about New Girl?
Paige Harbison: I think the best thing about it is that it is unrelenting in its honesty about the teenage condition. I'm 22. I'm not that far out of high school, though it seems it only gets worse every year. I remember what it was like not that long ago. I like the fantastical world of a boarding school filled with scandal. Always have. I loved the creepiness and the drama of Rebecca-the fact that a lot of bad choices were made, and that everyone isn't just happy in the end. I liked that everyone is almost on the brink of madness the entire time. I tried to weave that through my book.
Verdict: The book New Girl, written by Paige Harbison, is a re-write of the original 1938 bestseller "Rebecca". The book tells the story of two girls; the first, known only as "New Girl", is surprised to find she is not welcomed at her new school and struggles to find her place. The second girl "Rebecca" (Becca) is the most popular new girl in school, whose popularity was only outshone by her mysterious disappearance at the end of junior year.
The book follows 'New Girl's' story as she is thrown into the world of boarding school education in her final year of high school. When New Girl finds herself on the bottom of the popularity list she is confused and endeavours to find out why. That's when she discovers that the reason a spot became available at Manderly Academy was because the girl whose spots she's taken went missing the previous May. To make things worse, the girl (Becca) was also the most popular girl in school. In fact, the only student so far that has been truly nice to New Girl is the one she was warned away from, Max, Becca's boyfriend.
The book also follows Becca's tale of her junior year and the events that led up to her disappearance. Becca, like New Girl was once the new girl at Manderly Academy. Unlike New Girl though, Becca was not unwelcome and strove to be the most popular girl in the school by having the best boyfriend, the best friends and introducing the school to the world of parties, alcohol and sex.
While everyone, including New Girl believes that Becca's life is perfect, only Becca knows just how insecure she really is, and when her boyfriend Max begins to discover the truth, Becca's world begins to collapse.
This book is the perfect balance of mystery, romance and the struggle to belong. While the characters are not always likeable it is easy to relate to them and to become involved in their story. I found myself, on more than one occasion, unable to put the book down. As I became more and more attached to the characters, I wanted to find out what happens next, I wanted to know if Becca would suddenly return.
We've all been the 'new girl' once and know how hard it is to try to find a place where you belong. It's whether to hold true to yourself or to fit into whatever everyone else wants you to be that is the struggle. New Girl shows us that lying about ourselves is often not the way to win people's hearts in the end, and that if we are strong we will eventually figure out who we are.