Today’s book is a psychological thriller that deftly describes the perils of getting back in contact with people from your past. We received Friend Request by Laura Marshall from Hachette Australia for review and here’s the blurb from Goodreads:
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. Uncensored and unapologetic. Days into their acquaintance, Maria and Louise are quickly on their way to becoming fast friends.
Decades later, when Maria reaches out over social media, Louise’s heart nearly stops. Long-buried memories quickly rise to the surface–those first days of their budding connection, the awful judgment of the young women who felt at the time like her sole gateway to belonging. The fateful, tragic night that would change all their lives forever.
Her entire adult life, Louise has known if the truth ever came out, she could stand to lose everything. Her job. Her son. Her freedom. Maria’s sudden reemergence threatens it all, and forces Louise to reconnect with everyone she’d severed ties with to get away from the past. Trying to piece together exactly what happened that night, she soon discovers there’s much she didn’t know. The only certainty is that Maria Weston disappeared that night, never to be heard from again–until now.
I will be the first to admit to being reluctant to reconnect on social media with acquaintances from the distant past and this book did nothing to dissuade me from clinging to this anti-social stance with a vengeance. Louise made some poor choices (as they would be described in today’s school disciplinary lingo) as a high school student and carries immense guilt due to the terrible outcome of a vindictive prank in which she was involved. Years later, with a child, successful career and recent divorce under her belt, Louise is disconcerted to receive a friend request on Facebook from the victim of her high school stunt, a woman Louise – and all who knew the girl at the time – thought to be dead. The request sends Louise plummeting back into the insecurities and confusion of her high school-aged self as she is forced to confront her past actions while trying to ensure that her son Henry is untouched by this new danger.
This was a book that I enjoyed while I was reading, but in the end, lacked a certain something. There is certainly suspense throughout as we puzzle out with Louise who it might be who has sent the request and the associated questions – why Louise? Why now? – and a mounting sense of dread as Louise’s old school friends come in for a request as well. The ending, although unexpected, just lacked that heightened sense of terror that I was hoping for, in which I’m flipping pages and trying to read faster and faster to find out if the worst will happen. Rather, on discovering whodunnit, I had more of a feeling of “Well, that was unexpected!” The story also has a bit of a double-header in terms of who did what to whom, so the mystery is extended beyond a single reveal.
The author did a good job of providing multiple red herrings with plenty of characters both from Louise’s past and new acquaintances, with something to hide. The book flicks back and forth between the present and Louise’s final year of high school, during which the turbulent relationship between Louise, Maria and Louise’s girl-idol, Sophie is played out with tragic results. The actions of the fateful leaving party, during which Maria dies – or does she? – are revealed piecemeal throughout the book, so it is quite a long while before the reader has a good grasp of why Louise might be a target for Maria’s posthumous friend request.
Overall, this was an arresting read for the most part and one that I would recommend if you are a fan of contemporary mysteries that feature a bit of murder and suspense. Reading this one might be a good reminder to check your privacy settings on your social media accounts too!
Until next time,