Quick YA Review: New Girl by Paige Harbison

I received “New Girl” through Net Galley last week. It was a quick YA read with a plot to entice your average teen: our heroine, Callie, is admitted to the prestigious “Manderly Academy” in NH where she takes the place (literally) of missing student “Becca Normandy”, struggling to make new friends and dealing with major romance issues are secondary to the overall anxiety of Becca possibly returning (alive or from the dead).

Here’s the thing: I would have LOVED this book as a teenager. Ghosts? Dead roommates? Social issues? Teen sex? Attractive rich students off at boarding school with few if any adults in sight? I would have lapped this up, similar to my obsession in middle school with the “Flowers in the Attic” series.

As an adult, though, I had some major issues. Having worked in independent schools for over 20 years I found the fact that the main character’s parents “got her in” unbeknownst to her as incredulous. I found the amount of time the students were off partying and unattended, etc., incredulous. I found the fact that this poor girl was moved in mid-year to the same dorm room where the missing girl lived and the missing girl’s personal belongings were still all there and in place incredulous. I was also bothered by the Manderly/Becca/Rebecca association, which was intentional as a “retelling”, but wondered if most teens would recognize the DuMaurier reference or if I was just dating myself. Finally, I felt that I was reading the writing of a young person. I had no idea who this author was, besides assuming it was a woman, and felt this could be her first novel (it is not) or that she was young and still developing as a writer (she was 20 when she wrote it). Don’t get me wrong, the writing is fine. I just have read a lot of writing in my years as a teacher and college professor and it felt along the same lines. But the bottom line is I read it, and kept reading until the end.

So – I’d be interested in feedback when this comes out (it can be pre-ordered at the moment). I’d like to look forward to more from Paige Harbison, too. Due to the drugs/sex/rape/murder references, in my opinion it’s for older YA readers.

thanks Net Galley and Harlequin Teen for my freebie!

REVIEW: Ghost on Black Mountain by Ann Hite

Back in October I read a great book that I found at the local BJ’s – “Ghost on Black Mountain”. This novel tells the story of Black Mountain and its ghosts through the voices of five depression era women.

Nellie Clay comes to Black Mountain as a young bride – not realizing her husband is pretty much evil incarnate. Nellie’s story is intertwined with her mother’s, her housekeeper’s, her daughter’s, and more as we see the lives of these people and the community in which they live. Set in Depression-era North Carolina, the story centers around a murder and the ghosts that it conjures – and set free.

I just loved this book. I loved the voices, the story, the peek into mountain culture of that time. Ann Hite is a great writer and this story goes on my unforgettable list!