Title: New Girl
Author: Paige Harbison
Release Date: January 2012
Published By: Harlequin Teen
Goodreads Rating: 3.50 stars
Review: Ever since she arrived at Manderly Academy, New Girl has been unknown, but not unnoticed - because of her. Becca Normandy, the girl everybody loved, whose spot New Girl got because she went missing. And everyone seems to blame her, except for Max Holloway, who everyone still thinks of as Becca's boyfriend. When New Girl thinks of him, sometimes she feels envy for Becca's life. But now? Becca might be trying to take it back.
I wasn't quite sure how much I would like NEW GIRL going in because I disliked the author's previous novel, Here Lies Bridget. Although this book wasn't perfect, I did end up finding some aspects that impressed me very much, particularly the tone. The quiet but creepy writing combined with a gothic plot and excellently timed pacing creates a growing sense of suspense that glues your fingers to the pages.
However, I did think the story could have been even more suspenseful and gripping if Becca's character had been developed a little differently. The readers are told that she's sociopathic and dangerous but at the same time utterly compelling to people, but I didn't feel like this attribute of her was shown. I wanted to be able to see first-hand how magnetic she was and at the same time how dark and terrifying, and while she was portrayed like this to an extent, it wasn't as satisfying as I'd hoped.
I also felt like there were some contrived areas in the plot in an effort to emotionally isolate New Girl. The whole scenario with her being forced to attend Manderley felt quite a bit cooked up, and I didn't really buy the fact that everyone basically hates her just because she happened to get the spot of a beloved girl who went missing. It's not like New Girl was involved with the actual case in any way, so their irrational hatred for her just came across as feeling off.
All in all, NEW GIRL was a very creepy novel with high levels of suspense that could have been ratcheted up more if Becca's character had been more developed. I wanted to see more of her and less of some of the plot holes that bothered me, but this was still a good novel that I'd recommend to any fans of psychological suspense, even if, like me, you didn't enjoy the author's prior work.