A place has opened up at the prestigious Manderley Academy boarding school for (the unnamed) ‘New Girl’. She finds it difficult to settle into her new school, haunted by a past students’ popularity. Becca Normandy, whose room she is now sleeping in, is still on everyone’s mind. As New Girl falls for Becca’s boyfriend Max, she begins to think that she’ll never be comfortable at Manderley, and that Becca’s presence will forever be felt…
New Girl sounded like a standard young adult contemporary novel to me until I saw that it was a retelling of Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier – a classic that had been on my ‘to read’ list for a while. New Girl doesn’t try to be ‘literary’ or an imitation, but it isn’t a novel that is loosely inspired by the novel and is using its name as a marketing tool either. I chose to read Rebecca first – a choice that paid off – and I thought that New Girl was a fantastic retelling.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading New Girl, especially discovering just how much of Rebecca inspired the novel. I loved the idea of Manderley as a boarding school, although it didn’t quite match the spooky atmosphere of the estate, and how Paige Harbison modernised the storyline and incorporated changes. I could easily identify which characters were meant to be whom, such as Dana – one of the most intriguing characters – is a Mrs Danvers-type character (although it did take me half the book to realise that Becca was short for Rebecca! Unbelievable!). The novel also managed feel fresh and new as Paige Harbison gives her characters alternative, believable pasts. The alternate chapters, the voices of Becca and New Girl, worked perfectly and were a welcome change. However, I’m not quite sure how I would have felt about the novel if it wasn’t a retelling because half the fun was relating it to the classic. I would suggest that this is the best way to read it and to ensure that you get the most out of it.
New Girl is a surprisingly compelling retelling of the 1938 classic, but make sure that you read Rebecca first!
This book was obtained as an eGalley from HarlequinTEEN.