Welcome to Manderley AcademyI hadn't wanted to go, but my parents were so excited . So here I am, the new girl at Manderley, a true fish out of water. But mine's not the name on everyone's lips. Oh, no.
It's Becca Normandy they can't stop talking about. Perfect, beautiful Becca. She went missing at the end of last year, leaving a spot open at Manderley—the spot that I got. And everyone acts like it's my fault that infallible, beloved Becca is gone and has been replaced by not perfect, completely fallible, unknown Me.
Then, there's the name on my lips—Max Holloway. Becca's ex. The one boy I should avoid, but can't. Thing is, it seems like he wants me, too. But the memory of Becca is always between us. And as much as I'm starting to like it at Manderley, I can't help but think she's out there, somewhere, watching me take her place.
Waiting to take it back. (From Goodreads)Buy on Amazon | Goodreads
I’d completely forgotten why I wanted to read this book by the time I actually started reading it, but as soon as I read the word “Manderley” I remembered why– because New Girl is a reimagining of Rebecca!
It’s the sort of reimagining that either you love or you hate: everyone’s a teenager, it’s set in a high school, and the ending is almost completely different. The nameless narrator moves from sunny Florida to dreary New England to attend her dream school: Manderley, where everyone is rich and snobby and obsessed with some girl named Becca.
I suppose they have a good reason to be: she disappeared back in May and no-one’s heard from her since. New Girl gets the spot Becca left empty, rooming with Becca’s old roommate Dana Veers and attracting attention from Becca’s two old flames, Max Holloway and his best friend Johnny Parker. Drama, mystery, and heartbreak follow.
Okay! So now that I’ve typed all that out, it does seem a bit silly. However, I actually really enjoyed it. I read the original Rebecca early in 2011, and I LOVED it. New Girl doesn’t have the same sort of gothic atmosphere that Rebecca has, but it’s got its own sort of thrilling and spooky scenes. I love picking out things from the original story that’s been shifted a bit to fit in with the new, and the way some of those things showed up in New Girl was very clever.
Still, it’s basically a completely different story from Rebecca, with only the barest of bones being similar. Where Rebecca focused on the relationship between Maxim and Nameless Narrator (the 2nd Mrs. de Winter), the taint Rebecca left behind, and the way Manderley ties all of that together, New Girl focuses on NG’s settling into Manderley, Becca’s reasons for being the way she is (and why she did things), and the effects that those things have on the characters. It’s sort of similar, but…not really.
NG has some advantages over the 2nd Mrs. de Winter as a character. She’s not afraid to speak out about people treating her like crap because she’s not Becca. She’s not afraid to be strong and stand with herself even if no-one else where. And she’s even a bit feisty when she wants to be, which is refreshing after reading about NN being all dreary and faint-y and generally a bit of a wet blanket.
Max, on the other hand, suffers in comparison to Maxim. I didn’t particularly like Maxim in Rebecca, but I could understand him a bit and I knew that he had actual emotions and whatnot. Max comes across as very blank to me in New Girl. I think he’s supposed to be mysterious but in a romance aren’t the mysterious heroes supposed to explain themselves eventually to the heroine? Max doesn’t, and I’m left cold and disinterested in his and NG’s romance.
Becca, however, gets lots of explanation of why she’s the way she is. I won’t ruin it for you but I think it’s a good theory, and I like that it (ironically?) humanizes the Rebecca from the original, who I think was described as someone barely human.
The one thing I really hated about this book, however, was the ending. It’s different from the original, and that’d be okay if it didn’t also tack on two pages of unnecessary explanation of things that we should have already picked up from the rest of the book! That made me feel that either the author thought her readers were stupid and wouldn’t understand stuff she’d already told them multiple times before, or that the author doesn’t have confidence in her writing and thought she needed to restate things in as bald a way as possible. Or maybe the publisher forced her to add it in– either way, that explanation plus the weird paranormal thing tacked on right after it made me really angry.
Despite my problems with the ending and with Max’s non-personality, I enjoyed reading New Girl. I don’t think it can be directly compared with Rebecca because they’re each trying to do different things1. As a reimagining of Rebecca, though, and not a retelling, I think New Girl is a fun book with a great story, mostly interesting characters, and a protagonist who you can root for.
Read: January 1, 2012
- and comparing Daphne du Maurier to a (somewhat) newbie author is unfair, I think. ↩