More Secrets, More Crime, and More Delicious Indonesian Food in "The New Girl"

The Fiction Addiction

Author Jesse Q Sutanto is back with more secrets, more murder, and more delicious Indonesian food in The New Girl.

Teenage track star Lia Setiawan gets a scholarship to an upscale prep school, and quickly discovers Draycott Academy is full of typical mean rich girls, nasty teachers, and the intense pressure to keep her scholarship.   There’s a Gossip Girl-style rumor app, Draycott Dirt, full of catty backstabbing and just generally mean commentary on everyone at the school. All anonymous, of course, but you can figure out who absolutely hates Lia for bumping her spot on the track team. Fortunately for Lia, there’s also a certain handsome Indo classmate, who seems to like her a lot.

Almost as soon as she sets foot on campus, Lia sees an ex-student having a fight and being taken away by school security. Her new schoolmates vaguely mention that the ex-student had something to do with tainted drugs? maybe cash for grades? blackmail? Lia’s literally living in the expelled girl’s room, where she finds a vague graffiti warning. Something is very much not right at Draycott, but with these mean girls on her tail, Lia might be expelled before she figures it out.

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The New Girl(cover art from the publisher)

The New Girl isn’t a sequel to The Obsession, but there are many similar elements. Lia just wants to make a success of her chance at prep school, at first, but when she’s pushed, she has the same determination and survival instinct we’ve seen before. Much like our Delilah in The Obsession, and a bit of Meddy in Dial A for Aunties, Lia can be wonderfully ruthless in getting to her objective.  Lia wanted to be a normal track athlete, but if she has to resort to crime, then she’s going to be the best criminal mastermind in Draycott Academy. It turns out that there’s a bit of competition for that role, though, with twists and double identities all over campus.

YA readers will especially enjoy the blend of school gossip, campus cliques, rich girl excess, and straight-up crimes.  In The New Girl,  once the drug running and blackmailing really get going, our Lia (along with most of the Draycott Academy students) looks likes a sweet, high-achieving high school girl, who couldn’t possibly have anything to do with that terrible murder. (Perhaps we even see the same insightful and skeptical Detective Mendez, who gave Delilah such a hard time?!?) This is where the tension really comes in, as Lia tries to keep it together while investigating the dark side of campus life and trying to look like a well-adjusted student.

Recommended for fans of, oh, basically all the prep school thrillers. Beware The Girl for another scholarship girl with secrets, The Cheerleaders for a high school thriller with a believable friendship at the heart, and obviously, if you missed Sutanto’s earlier novel, The Obsession, you’re in for a treat.

The New Girl is written by Jesse Q Sutanto and will be published by Sourcebooks Fire on February 1, 2022. Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the review copy. Opinions are my own, as always.

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