Book: “Friend Request” by Laura Marshall
Publishing Info: Grand Central Publishing, September 2017
Where Did I Get This Book: The library!
Book Description: Maria Weston wants to be friends. But Maria Weston is dead. Isn’t she?
1989. When Louise first notices the new girl who has mysteriously transferred late into their senior year, Maria seems to be everything the girls Louise hangs out with aren’t. Authentic. Funny. Brash. Within just a few days, Maria and Louise are on their way to becoming fast friends.
2016. Louise receives a heart-stopping email: Maria Weston wants to be friends on Facebook. Long-buried memories quickly rise to the surface: those first days of their budding friendship; cruel decisions made and dark secrets kept; the night that would change all their lives forever.
Louise has always known that if the truth ever came out, she could stand to lose everything. Her job. Her son. Her freedom. Maria’s sudden reappearance threatens it all, and forces Louise to reconnect with everyone she’d severed ties with to escape the past. But as she tries to piece together exactly what happened that night, Louise discovers there’s more to the story than she ever knew. To keep her secret, Louise must first uncover the whole truth, before what’s known to Maria–or whoever’s pretending to be her–is known to all.
Review: I joined Facebook back in the day when it was still reserved for college students and your networks were categorized by what school you were going to! Why I had friends from the U of MN to Berkeley to some school out in England (who this person was, I don’t remember, but I remember being super smug about it)! But as it’s grown and changed it has become not only about keeping in touch with people in your life, but also about putting your entire life on display for everyone to see if you so choose. I know and accept the problematic aspects of Facebook, but at the same time I do check it multiple times a day, almost as a reflex.
I think that one of the main ‘thrill’ or ‘chill’ factors of “Friend Request” is that it is supposed to make you feel like social media like Facebook makes you all the more vulnerable and unsafe in this fast and cutthroat techy world. After all, you can’t see who is on the other side of the computer screen when you interact with them. So when Louise starts getting mysterious messages from long forgotten (and long thought dead) Maria Weston, these fears come to life on the page. What I liked about Louise is that while she’s definitely a protagonist you see a lot in these kinds of stories, the ‘woman with a dark past’ trope to be sure, her personal moral dilemmas and inability to really know just what she was actually dealing with made for an interesting enough and solid mystery. A former mean girl turned repentant single mother, Louise is still wracked with guilt about what she and her friend Sophie put poor nonconformist Maria through before she disappeared, and it has basically stalled her life and stunted her self worth. She’s your usual unreliable narrator, but it’s hard to tell if she’s unreliable because she’s deceptive or because she’s warped her entire view of herself. The only person who knows her dark secret is her ex-husband Sam, a boy from those days who assured her that he loves her in spite of her involvement. Louise was a mess, but she wasn’t an unlikable mess. I was rooting for her the entire time. By showing who she was in high school and juxtaposing who she has become, I feel like we got not only insight into her mind and character, but also some small insights into those in her life that play large parts in this story.
The mystery itself had a lot of balls it was trying to keep up in the air all at once. The main mystery, of course, is who sent Louise this friend request and the messages, but then a number of other bits branch out of it. The list of suspects if a large one (Maria’s brother? A mysterious man that Sophie has been dating? Maria herself?), and they all come with their own baggage. I will admit that I found myself fooled a couple of times, which is always a plus in books like this, but as it all came together there wasn’t really anything that really stood out or blew me away. In fact, I felt that a couple of the solutions that did come to fruition were a little too out of the blue, even if they did have some pretty good build up and solid groundwork laid out beforehand. I don’t know, I just don’t know how many times we can have similar solutions play out in these books. I was more interested in the questions that this book did raise about the ways we make ourselves vulnerable through our social media. I do my best to keep privacy filters pretty high on my Facebook, and to keep my posts on other social media vague and unspecific, but this story did make me think a bit about what I do put out there even when I think I’m being guarded.
“Friend Request” was a quick and fast read that I enjoyed in the moment, even if it didn’t stand out too much from others in the genre. I think that if you have travel coming up for Spring Break this would be the perfect yarn to take with you for a long flight or the pool or beach. It just may not leave much of an impression.
Rating 6: A by the book thriller with some fair questions about the social media age.
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