Amazon discontinued the ability to create images using their SiteStripe feature and in their infinite wisdom broke all previously created images on 12/31/23. Many blogs used this feature, including this one. Expect my archives to be a hot mess of broken book cover images until I can slowly comb through 20 years of archives to make corrections.

Friday, March 29, 2024

Review: The New Girl

I realize that Jesse Q. Sutanto is a bigger household name with her Aunties and Vera Wong series of adult mysteries, but I discovered her through her bang-up YA suspense thriller, The Obsession.  That book ended up being one of my favorite reads of 2021, and I was excited to hear that the author was going to continue on with a series, of which The New Girl is book 2 and yes, I'm just getting around to it.

Here's the thing, it's not really a sequel.  It's set in the same universe and is more of a prequel. A few characters from The Obsession are here (Sophie, Logan, the cops...) but not much else. This can be read purely as a stand-alone.

Lia Setiawan is a mid-distance running track star and thinks her ship has come in when she wins a full-ride scholarship to the prestigious private school, Draycott Academy.  However it doesn't take long for Lia to realize she's in way over her head.  She's quite literally getting a tour of campus when she witnesses a girl getting hauled out of a building by security, kicking and screaming.  And the rest of the students? Don't even bat an eye.  Speaking of, the student body is full of rich kids with their designer clothes (and designer drugs) and she quickly runs afoul of mean girl, Mandy, who Lia outperforms on the track, getting Mandy kicked off the varsity squad. Lia quickly becomes a hot topic on the school's anonymous social media app, Draycott Dirt - and naturally everything being said about her is unflattering. 

That's not the worst of it though - that's reserved for Mr. Werner, Lia's English teacher. Lia quickly runs into problems with him as he starts failing her right out the gate.  Then Lia stumbles across a major scandal - it seems Mr. Werner is selling good grades to the highest bidder.  And Lia, she of the single Mom, one-bedroom apartment, on a scholarship, does not stand a chance.  Failing Mr. Werner's class puts her track scholarship in jeopardy and, in turn, puts Lia's hopes for a college education in jeopardy.  The only thing going her way?  Danny, the cutest boy in school seems to have taken a shine to her. But even that gets complicated thanks to his racist parents and the fact that Mr. Werner is his uncle by marriage.

It's a lot. And eventually this toxic stew gets to bubbling and the bodies start dropping - with Lia right in the crosshairs.

A plus of this story is that the heroine acts and reacts like one would think a teenager would when dropped into extraordinary circumstances.  The downside? The heroine acts and reacts like one would think a teenager would when dropped into extraordinary circumstances.  Folks, this is a non-stop cavalcade of bad decisions from our heroine, start to finish.  Even worse? The reader is stuck in her reactionary, frantic brain for the entire story as she continues to make one bad decision after another. 

It is, and this cannot be overstated, exhausting. How this dumb bunny manages to skate out of serious trouble in the end beggars belief. Look, different strokes and all that, but frantic characters running off half-cocked making terrible decisions does not make for compelling reading. It just doesn't. Go ahead, fight me.

The other major problem with this book? Whoever at the publisher approved the back cover blurb has hopefully been fired since this book came out in 2022. There's a huge, honkin' spoiler in the back cover copy.  Look, I may not know much, but I do know that if the author doesn't reveal something until the final chapters? That's a spoiler. Yes, yes - I saw it coming at a certain point - but I would have seen it coming a lot sooner had I decided to read the back cover blurb before I started the book (which, hello, a lot of readers do). 

In the end this just didn't work all that well for me. I tore through it mainly to be done with it and see how the heck the author was going to get her Idiot Heroine Of Bad Decisions out of trouble, but that was the only reason. Too frantic, too frenetic, just too too.  As much as I loved the first book, this one might have killed my interest in the dysfunctionally corrupt Draycott Academy.

Final Grade = D


azteclady said...

Sometimes, "off the TBR" is the only upside; sometimes, "and the whole series/author too" is the sad silver lining.

Better luck with your next read!

Wendy said...

AL: It was a major letdown after The Obsession which was a darker more compelling read, featuring a heroine who did misstep but was more proactive and smart about wiggling her way out of trouble. Lia was just a frantic mess to the point of exhausting me. But yes, one less book on the digital pile is always a good thing!