Monday, June 1, 2020

Friend Request by Laura Marshall

Introvert me is like: This is why I don't have friends. You can't trust friends.

As with 90% of the books on my Kindle, FRIEND REQUEST was an impulse buy back from when it was on sale (and should not be confused with the terrible movie by the same title). Set in England, FRIEND REQUEST is the story of a woman named Louise, told in dual timelines: 1989, when she was a teenager; and 2016, as a middle-aged woman with a son.

Louise is the type of character that I find really fascinating in fiction because we don't often see them portrayed well. She's spineless, insecure, self-centered, cowardly, and horribly flawed, and yet, because it's narrated in first person, we get to see all of the mental gymnastics she performs to try to make herself out as the good person, even when she's doing terrible things. And when she receives a friend request on Facebook from a classmate long thought dead, all of the dark secrets of her own personal Pandora's box come flying out as we slowly figure out what happened on the last night that she saw her ex-friend Maria, and what is at stake for her now, as an adult.

I saw that some people didn't like this book because it was really slow and I totally sympathize with that. Even though this book wasn't particularly long, it took forEVER to read because so much of it was build-up (and the pay-off really wasn't as satisfying as it could have been). That said, I can be all about slow-paced books if they are immersive enough, and FRIEND REQUEST is as much a fascinating character study about the cruelty of teenage girl cliques, as it is a murder mystery. Parts of it really reminded me of Megan Abbott, who also writes quite prolifically on the intense and dark dynamics of teen girls at their worst. Obviously, the 1989 parts were my favorites.

Anyone who likes slow-paced mysteries will really like this. I actually just read my first Riley Sager book, and I think that Laura Marshall's style (once you get over the chatty, very British narrative) is pretty similar-- at least in terms of pacing and what she sets out to accomplish with her book. While this isn't a book I would reread, I would definitely check out more from this author in the future.

3.5 out of 5 stars

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