Hello everyone, and welcome back to The Bookworm’s Fantasy! I hope you’re all doing well. Today I’m posting my review of Laura Marshall’s debut thriller, ‘Friend Request’. I really enjoyed this book and can’t wait to share my thoughts with you all! So, keep reading…
Maria wants to be friends.
But Maria is dead . . . isn’t she?
When Louise Williams receives a message from someone left long in the past, her heart nearly stops.
Maria Weston wants to be friends on Facebook.
Maria Weston has been missing for over twenty-five years. She was last seen the night of a school leavers’ party, and the world believes her to be dead. Particularly Louise, who has lived her adult life with a terrible secret.
As Maria’s messages start to escalate, Louise forces herself to reconnect with the old friends she once tried so hard to impress. 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. . .
** TRIGGER WARNING ** Contains descriptions of sexual abuse, including references to rape. Also contains references to mental illness and suicide. Includes descriptions of substance abuse and drug use.
‘Friend Request’ is Laura Marshall’s debut novel and was published on 11th January 2018. It is a Sunday Times Bestseller and was shortlisted for both the Bath Novel Award and the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize 2016. Laura Marshall grew up in Wiltshire and studied English at university, and then spent almost twenty years working in conference production. She now lives in Kent with her family.
The novel received tremendous praise and was backed by a fantastic marketing campaign. Sunday Mirror labelled it “sharp, relevant and tightly plotted, with a fabulous twist”, Sun called it “an astonishingly good debut”, and Closer said it is “a gripping read”. Many fellow authors have also praised the novel, including Hollie Overton: “I simply couldn’t put it down… a fast-paced, exciting thriller”, Emma Kavanagh: “Twisty and gripping… you must read this!” and Louise Candlish: “Intriguing and compulsive”.
‘Friend Request’ is an exceptional debut thriller, all about the dangers of social media and how exposing it really is. When Louise Williams receives a friend request on Facebook from her presumed-dead schoolmate Maria Weston, her life is thrown into turmoil. Because somebody is after her, and they want to expose the truth about the night Maria died.
The narrative is told in Louise’s first-person perspective, providing the reader with a detailed insight to her thoughts and feelings. The reader really feels as if they are in Louise’s head, experiencing events through her eyes. The narrative jumps in time from the present day (2016) to her childhood school days (1989). The present-day narrative explores Louise’s current life and how it has been turned upside down by the friend request, and the past narrative recalls the events of Louise’s school days, including her bullying of Maria.
Louise is definitely my favourite character in the novel. She’s a hard-working single mother who always tries to do what’s best for her four year-old son Henry. She will go to any lengths to protect him, and is acutely aware of the fact that she may be losing him. When she realises that somebody is after her, she becomes anxious and paranoid. She is very aware of her character flaws and knows that she has done wrong in the past, but wants to put things right. She’s a very realistic and down-to-earth character, and I really felt a great deal of sympathy towards her.
Louise’s ex-husband Sam is a dark, mysterious character. He abandoned her for another woman after their son was born, but on the outside he seems like a very kind-hearted character. However, as the narrative progresses, it soon becomes clear that there is much more to him lurking beneath the surface. Louise’s best friend Polly seems at first to be a very good friend, but when she discovers Louise’s secret she quickly becomes judgemental and nasty, forcing Louise to seek support from other places instead.
Other characters in the novel include: Sophie (Louise’s childhood best friend), Matt (another of Louise’s childhood friends), Maria (the victim of Sophie and Louise’s bullying), Esther (Maria’s only childhood friend), Tim (Maria’s brother), Bridget (Maria’s mother) and various other schoolmates. All the characters bring something fresh and exciting to the novel, and they are all needed to tell the story.
** TRIGGER WARNING ** (I apologise for any spoilers here.) The novel contains implicit descriptions to acts of sexual abuse, including BDSM and rape. These acts are not explicitly described, but rather alluded to by characters in the novel. The novel also draws attention to the theme of mental illness, including references to suicide. Finally, the novel also addresses substance abuse, in particular drug use. If any of these issues may trigger a negative response for you, I suggest skipping this book.
As the present narrative progresses, it soon becomes clear that somebody is after Louise and will not stop until she pays for what she’s done to Maria. Louise’s anxiety and tension increases, and she no longer feels she can trust anyone. The past narrative motors onwards, leading to the fateful night of the leaver’s party in which Maria was found dead. Will Louise ever be freed from her past, or will the memory of her school days haunt her forever?
So, let’s talk about the ending. I don’t want to be too negative here, but I must admit I was disappointed with the ending and expected something very different. There is a very dramatic, clever twist – but for me personally, it didn’t work and I didn’t buy it. The theme of rape was quite sloppily thrown in at the end, and I really didn’t feel that it was necessary. But some readers may really enjoy the ending, so don’t be turned off by my negative experience!
Overall, I highly recommend this novel to those of you who enjoy psychological thrillers. It really highlights the dangers of social media and just how exposed we really are online. It also poses an important question: Can we ever really be cut off from our pasts? I really enjoyed the novel throughout and thought it was fantastic – it’s just the ending that let it down for me! A brilliant read.
Happy reading 🙂