What is this about?: A friend request from a dead former classmate causes Louise to search out her past school friends and to face the sort of person she was back then.
What else is this about?: Bullying and the consequences thereof, even decades later.
Blurb: A GRIPPING, DEBUT PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLER THAT PUTS A MODERN TWIST ON A CLASSIC CONCEIT.
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.
Louise was a follower, the kind of girl who was grateful to be part of the in crowd, and would do anything to continue to be part of that crowd. And that’s what happened to Maria when they were in school, on a night that ended in Maria’s death.
A friend request
Years later, Louise is a moderately successful interior designer, and single mother still hurt by her divorce and her husband’s cheating. But she’s managing somehow, until the friend request from Maria comes into her inbox.
From there, the book splits into two, showing who Louise was at school and what sort of friend she was to Maria. In the present, along with Maria’s friend request, she finds herself invited to a school reunion, which gives her the perfect excuse to go search out Sophie, the cool girl at school, who everyone wanted to be friends with to ask about Maria.
Those chapters in the past ring so true as Marshall delves into the complicated nature of how friendships go during those years, with their petty jealousies over what looks to be the silliest of things. It made me stop and think about those years myself and fervently hope I wasn’t like this back then.
That’s the thing about looking back at those years in school — it’s the best time in the world for some people, like Sophie in this case, because adulthood and the reality of life after school isn’t anything bullies are prepared for as Louise realises when she meets Sophie again in the present. Slowly, more truths about the past come to light as more messages from Maria continue to come.
Marshall takes great care with Louise’s evolution in this book, ensuring she does so realistically, moreso than I would have expected in a thriller like this. And Marshall makes Maria herself a strong part of the narrative, making the situation far more intense and emotional than it would have been had we not understood who Maria was back then.
Ultimately, the conclusion to this book reminds us that the consequences of bullying still haunt people and those close to them years after the fact. But the actual killer? Well you definitely won’t see that one coming. Nods.