It is 2016 and divorced single mother, Louise, doesn't have much of a social life since she divides her time and energy between her 4-year-old son and her work. Out of the blue, Louise receives a friend request on Facebook from Maria Weston, a girl she knew in high school. The trouble is, Maria Weston is dead, and Louise is one of only a handful of people who knows what really happened to her. With her high school reunion just around the corner, Louise is terrified that someone is stalking her. Could it be Maria herself, or someone else who knows the truth and wants to blackmail Louise or seek revenge?
Not to be confused with the 2016 German horror film of the same name (also called Unfriend), Friend Request is the debut novel of British writer Laura Marshall. It's a thriller, about being haunted by the past and the isolation of keeping secrets, as well as the potential dangers of social media. Trigger warning- this book deals with abusive relationships, rape and murder.
Friend Request is well paced and intriguing in parts, but it suffers by comparison with similar thrillers I have read (such as The Girl Beforeand The Sunday Girl).The device of chapters alternating between being written in the first and second person, as well as between the past and present, seemed a bit forced and annoying. I also found myself getting irritated with the characters' stupid behaviour. For one thing, I'd have hit the roof if a friend had posted publicly on Facebook that she'd signed me up for an online dating site, naming the site. Do you want trolls and stalkers? Because that's how you get trolls and stalkers! Well, that, and sheer bad luck combined with the general nastiness of the internet.
The premise would be relatable to most people, since most of us have at least dipped a toe into the ocean of social media, and at least glimpsed its creepy side (unsolicited penis pictures, friend requests from random strangers, worries about privacy etc.). Once you're reading, the story chugs along nicely for the most part, and it did make an interesting change to read a story to do with high school bullying from the perspective of a bully, however reluctant, who regrets what she did and would give almost anything to change it. I also liked the way the book explored the effects of the tragedy on the victim's family. Friend Request is a decent, well-paced thriller for the digital age. Laura Marshall's second novel, Three Little Lies was released in June 2018.