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The Girl in a Cafe

Loving Books Since Before It Was Cool! All reviews can also be found on my main blog!

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New Girl - Paige Harbison "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again" are the opening lines to one of literature's most loved books, Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, which has been given a makeover in Paige Harbison's second novel, New Girl. I love Daphne du Maurier, as she tends to be one of the only phsycological thriller authors that keeps me hanging on to every page, so as soon as I heard about this YA version of one of my favourite books, I just had to get my hands on it, and was so glad I could finally read this book!Our heroine of the story is the narrator, whose name we don't know until the very end (the first difference from Rebecca, where you don't find out the narrator's name), whose old love for boarding schools (blame Harry Potter) lands her at the the prestigious Manderley Academy, far from her home in Florida. While she once dreamed of going there, the appeal quickly waned over the years, and as she soon finds out, Manderley - and boarding schools in general - aren't quite all they are cracked up to be. Especially when the girl who's room your taking over hasn't technically left -she's disappeared, leaving behind a school driven by social class and gossip. New Girl left me hooked from the start, and while it started off slow, introducing our MC and her Florida life, I was soon wrapped up in the pages, hanging on to every word in this thrilling and spellbounding re-take on a classic. Not once was I tempted to stop reading - in fact, I couldn't stop, and ended up reading through into the small hours of the morning!I think there's a fine line you can be on when doing a retelling of a classic novel, and there's so much pressure to get it done right, lest you upset the masses of fans. There's always going to be someone who doesn't like it, but that's not me. Paige Harbison has managed to make this story her own and given it a completely new identity, from the characters - like Dana, the crazy room-mate whose name totally didn't click until later on (Dana Veers is a play on the psycho housekeeper's name, Mrs. Danvers), and Becca's disappearance. One of the things I loved about this novel was how strong our narrator was. Our New Girl doesn't know anything about Becca and her history at Manderley, only what she gets told by her very biased classmates. When she arrives at Manderley, her classmates see her as Becca's replacement, especially Dana, Becca's "best friend", who thinks she is trying to take Becca's old life for her own, convinced that she's not really dead like people are saying. What I loved most was how much our New Girl would stick up for herself, even when it was pointless. She fought back, and never backed down, or instead was rational and became the higher person and left the room. Of course, this is a suspenseful and psyschological mind game like plot, so at times our New Girl would be left hanging on a thin razor edge as to what she believed was real and what was made up, which might come across as a flaw, but made her all the more human.You also get to see how much of an absolute nut-job Becca was. This is one of the only parts of the story that I didn't like. The novel was split into two parts - the "now", told from the perspective of the narrator, our New Girl, and the "then", the story of Becca's arrival at Manderley and everything that happened leading up until the New Girl's arrival. At times I felt that having it this way made the novel quite jumpy, and you easily lost track of who's mind you were actually in, but then at the same time it was good to see what events happened at Manderley before New Girl showed up. And, as said before, how Becca manipulated her way into the lives of the girls and boys at Maderley. So I guess it's like a double edged sword really - I didn't like it, but you needed it there to be able to understand what was going on.The rest of the characters, like Max (the love interest), Johnny (Becca's other love interest and Blake (the New Girl's friend) save for probably Dana, I felt were a little underdeveloped, or neglected. While we have a great understanding about the contrast between our New Girl and Becca, it felt like most of the author's energy went into making sure these two characters were completely right, leaving the others not quite perfected. I absolutely adored Max Holloway though, our romantic lead, who in my mind kept coming up as the gorgeous hottie Max Irons (yes, Jeremy Irons' son!), and his relationship with the New Girl was fantastic.There were some parts of the story though, that probably didn't really need to be there, and caused the story to lag a bit, like the New Girl's fight with her best friend. This, while helping our MC to come to terms with college and life after graduation, was sudden and dramatic, but remained unresolved throughout the rest of the novel. Overall, New Girl was a gritty and dark read that was a highly captivating novel that I would definitely read again. The only thing I don't really like is the UK cover (pictured above with the sypnosis). I've included the US cover as well in this review, as I think it is way more entrancing than the UK one, which doesn't really give off that dark, mysterious edge that the US cover does.