Thursday 27 July 2017

Review | Friend Request by Laura Marshall

Published by Sphere on July 27, 2017

Friend Request wastes no time in getting started. Louise is no longer in contact with any of her old school friends, except Sam, who is her ex-husband and father to her lovely four year old son Henry. However, the last person she expects to get a Facebook friend request from is Maria Weston. The girl who died on the night of their leavers’ party. The girl who Louise has never been able to forget. The girl whose death Louise feels responsible for.

I loved this concept. I loved it the moment I first saw the cover on Twitter and was so ridiculously excited to get my hands on a copy of this book. It's such a smart and thrilling idea and Laura Marshall delivers a chilling tale of bullying, reckless mistakes and their dire consequences. There are many layers and themes to this book. One thing that struck me in particular was how the mistakes of Louise’s past were never forgotten. She still felt the consequences in her day to day life, still worried about the implications they would have on her son’s life, and still worried about what kind of role model she was setting her son, and her best friend’s daughter too, because of her teenage years which she regrets massively. Despite her flaws, I liked Louise, and felt for her as her paranoia, regrets and fears took over.

The book switches in narrative between 1989 and 2016. In Louise’s teenage years, we see her striving to fit in with the popular clique, eager to please the girl she would love to call her best friend, Sophie. In the present day, Louise is haunted by the friend request. Not only that, she feels she is being watched and with a school reunion looming on the horizon, Louise is beginning to panic. Who sent that friend request? Or did Maria really die that night? Could Maria be back and out for revenge?

Both parts of this book are filled with tension and I couldn't get the story off of my mind. I was desperate for this book to live up to my expectations and it definitely did. I was really engrossed in the narrative straight away and powered my way through it barely stopping for breath. In both parts there was just an overwhelming feeling that something bad was going to happen and I was hooked on this, the suspense grabbing hold of me and not letting go.

The Facebook and social media representation in this book is very realistic. I could identify with Louise’s opinion of Facebook on many levels. It can come across as some sort of platform for people to show off about their lives and the rubbish aspects of day to day life don't get a mention. And it can be easy to find yourself scrolling through the photos and posts of a friend of a mutual friend’s mutual friend! When I left school I quickly took myself off of Facebook to avoid reading statuses and seeing photos from people who I didn't like and who didn't like me. Friend Request has convinced me that that was a very good move!

Another aspect to this book that I thought the author wrote particularly well was the lengths teenage girls go to to fit in and make friends, and the insecurities of those who bully others. I’m sure that sadly many girls could relate to the way Maria was treat at school. The casual name calling and spreading of rumours about her, to isolating her and taking things even further. Maria was a feistier character than I expected when I began to read this book, and seeing her character develop during her school days made me consider all the more whether she was behind the friend request and whether we’d see her resurface in the present day.

Friend Request is current and clever and a book that got under my skin and had me obsessing over it. It was everything I hoped for and more. I spent a good half of this book thinking I knew the truth about what happened to Maria and about the friend request Louise received – but I was thrilled when it turned out I was completely wrong about everything. This is a book I won’t be forgetting in a hurry – I can’t recommend it enough!

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