Sunday, September 22, 2013
Book Review: The New Girl, by Emily Perkins
In an unnamed town, during a hot, dry summer, Julia, Chicky and Rachel are celebrating the end of school and waiting for the exam results that will determine their futures, whilst trying to decide what to do next. Although their town is dull - so boring that they sign up to a free class at the local library - it's a difficult place to leave. Everything they've ever known is here, and only Julia really thinks that she might leave, inspired by Miranda, their beautiful, charming new teacher.
But Miranda is no angel, having come to escape the city, and the mistakes she made at university. She seems like a positive influence, a breath of fresh air with big ideas and pretty dresses, but the longer she stays, the more her darker side comes out, and her presence cannot remain benign.
The main protagonists are Julia and Miranda, though the novel cycles through many other points of view. I found them both really interesting. Miranda is a narcissist dressed up in Manic Pixie Dream Girl clothing - black hair, fringe, and all. She enjoys inspiring people and getting them to adore her. She's convinced that she knows best and doesn't care about the emotional fallout of her actions. Julia is naïve but intelligent, and she knows that she has to leave the town if she wants to do anything really exciting with her life, though she has a strong emotional connection to her friends and family, especially Chicky, Rachel, and her mother.
I also loved reading about Julia's mother, Mary, who had Julia when she was young, and is now a kind woman who loves her daughter and husband, but is aware of everything she missed out on by staying in the small town. She struggles with her husband's lack of interest in their daughter, and with the possiblity that Julia might leave.
There were some characters that I would have liked to read more about, and some scenes that seemed skipped over. When Miranda first comes to the town, she goes to meet the local women, most of them mothers, at a party hosted by the woman who hired her to teach, Gretchen. We only get to read about the party before Miranda arrives, and I would have liked to have seen how it went. I would also have liked to find out more about Chicky and Rachel, especially Chicky, who is brash and brave and yet seemingly content to stay in the town.
I'd like to read more books that deal with these type of issues - books about deciding what to do next, about the mistakes new adults can make when dealing with people who have been adults for a lot longer than they have. If you like the idea of 'New Adult' but not the fact that most of the books sold under that category are romances, give this a try and let me know what you think, though it is literary fiction - rather than NA or YA - because the story is sometimes told from the parents' point of view. If you have any recommendations for me, please do leave a comment!