In her second novel The New Girl, Emily Perkins tells a tale of three indivisible friends brought up in a small town whose comfortable childhood certainties are thrown into turmoil by the arrival of a mysterious and troubling stranger from the city. It is a hot, sultry and unsettling summer in a tiny provincial town where very little happens. Or so it seems. Inseparable friends Julia, Chicky and Rachel finish school and await their exam results, worrying as much about how they will pass the summer as how they will spend the future. Boys are for sex, girls are for true friendship and what to do about now being almost grown up is a pressing matter to be avoided. Unexpectedly into their midst comes the raven-haired, red-lipped Miranda, exuding urbanity and challenging the youth of the town to a risky voyage of collective self-discovery.

In flight from her own messy sexual affairs, Miranda is intrigued by the "threeness" of Julia, Chicky and Rachel, "like crass, mall rat versions of Chekhov's sisters, they seemed utterly different yet very much at ease with one another". Her relentless curiosity extends to their parents, lovers and friends. Gradually Miranda seduces the town and those not seduced are scandalised. None are safe from the emotional upheavals sparked by Miranda's search for the personal tragedies and family secrets on which the small town is built. For some, the consequences will be fatal. For all, they will be irreversible.

The small town, sweltering landscape and unforgiving city are unnamed in The New Girl, giving the novel the enduring feel of a modern fable. Against this archetypal landscape, the emotional terrain of Perkins' characters is sharply drawn in a story that makes tangible the points of connection and rupture between people and their often oblivious impact on each other. In a style that crackles with the hormonal electricity of youth, Perkins has captured exactly the aching expectation of young women on the brink of adulthood. The intimate "threeness" of Julia, Chicky, Rachel--and all their school friends--is challenged at exactly that fork in the road where their deeply entwined amity and enmity is finally divided over who wants to stay and who wants to go. By tracing the pathways of those who attempt to get away, Perkins ensures that the difficulties of escape and the brittle realities of urbanity are not sentimentalised. --Rachel Holmes

Genre: General Fiction

Used availability for Emily Perkins's The New Girl

Hardback Editions

June 2001 : UK Hardback
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Title: The New Girl
Author(s): Emily Perkins
ISBN: 0-330-37600-4 / 978-0-330-37600-6 (UK edition)
Publisher: Picador
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   


Paperback Editions

May 2002 : UK Paperback
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Title: The New Girl
Author(s): Emily Perkins
ISBN: 0-330-37601-2 / 978-0-330-37601-3 (UK edition)
Publisher: Picador
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   Amazon AU