One of my favourite Youtubers, Lucy Wood (check her out if you have no idea who she is, she’s fantastic), did a video a while back on books that she was enjoying. This one, along with a couple of others one I’ll be reviewing later on, ended up in my Amazon basket and outside my front door in the space of a day (that’s Amazon Prime for you). I never ended up picking it up till three months later (of course) because I ALWAYS buy more books than I can handle. So when I was flying home for Christmas I wanted to pick my handful of books to take in my suitcase with me and entertain myself in those long hours of travelling and thought this would be the perfect read. It seemed mysterious and a little (sorry) trashy. So…perfect for holiday reading! Boy was I wrong. After now being on a course studying publishing, I think this is the perfect representation (for me) of a cover that doesn’t match the genre of its book.
The story itself is a haunting tale of Maria’s death, a previous classmate of our protagonist, Louise, that is now hanging over Louise’s head many years later. She has done something to cause Maria’s death and now has been requested through Facebook to become friends. But, of course, Maria is dead isn’t she? This book delves into topics such as school bullying, drugs, romantic relationships, secrets and the toxic connection our generation has to online profiles and how damaging they really can be.
The genre itself (in my opinion), is more of a thriller. It keeps you guessing every time a new character is introduced as to why they’re there and what they have done. The cover itself reminds me of a YA book, something I would pick up when I was a lot younger which was why when specific themes turned up in the book, I was quite shocked.
I think Laura Marshall has a unique way of establishing characters that are compelling and enticing. You can’t help but sympathise with a character like Louise but also you find yourself angrily reacting to some of the stupid decisions she makes as the book progresses. But, of course, this is the fickleness and reality of us as humans. Sometimes we make stupid decisions, thinking they are right in the moment.
If you have not read this book and wish to not be spoiled, don’t read this post from here. I will be discussing my opinion on specific elements of the book that will ruin the twist that, should you pick this book up, you should definitely experience for yourself. If you have read it, let’s discuss some thoughts.
Louise’s Part in Maria’s Death: Let’s discuss the big secret that is kept from us for nearly half of the book, the fact Louise and Sophie added drugs to Maria’s drink at a party when they were kids. When the new comes out of Maria’s disappearance, of course she would feel guilty, of course she would feel responsible. At the age of seventeen/eighteen it is ALSO understandable that she would be scared to tell the police as she would be a prime suspect. But, as we found out later in the book, this act that she commits actually has nothing to do with what ended up happening to Maria. It would have been easily solved and figured out by the police if Louise had realised when she was older that she needed to tell them what happened. I also feel like the role I thought she played was a lot larger than it ended up being. This kind of disappointed me. Not that I wanted her to be a significantly more evil character but I felt that something had been presented as more dramatic than it was. What she and Sophie did was horrible and foolish. But, her silence about it was unnecessary considering what the action actually was.
Pete: It was very obvious to me that Pete was an almost Red Herring character. Someone that was suspiciously “too perfect” for Louise to have met. In my head they are now obviously together and living a happy life. I didn’t like him at first but grew to enjoy him as his sensibility and obviously traumatic divorce accounted for his maturity in how he dealt with Louise when she admitted her past to him. When I finished the book, a part of me wished he had ended up being Nathan, taking revenge on what had happened to Maria, but I ended up letting that idea go.
Sam: Now this was an interesting plot decision. From the start of the book it is obvious that he is an important part of the story. He is Louise’s ex-husband, father of her child and teenage friend. He also was present during the “prank” on Maria. What we end up finding out at the end as to how he ended up being responsible for her death, was shocking but also fascinating. As mentioned previously, the cover ended up hiding a lot of the topics that would end up surfacing in this book. His BDSM addiction, obvious mental health issues related to his mother’s absence and abandonment and drug abuse are all what leads up to him forcing himself upon Maria. Maria, a very strong and inspirational character was not having any of it which then resulted in him deciding to end her life. I think what was a brave and definitely good choice about picking him as the killer was that it shines a light on the reality of false presentations of relationships. Throughout the book Louise idolises Sam almost and places her relationship with him on a pedestal. When it is then disclosed that he was abusive and assaulting her consistently, it shows that people can present a relationship any way that they want to and most people will believe it. Sam wasn’t perfect and he definitely was not good to her but she saw it as “what she deserved.” Finally, when he admits what he has done, her illusion shatters, as does ours and we see exactly the type of person he is in a heartbreakingly tragic moment that Laura Marshall writes phenomenally.
I could go on about more thoughts about this book but I definitely think it’s one that made my mind stop and think for a while. I’m interested in hearing what other people liked/disliked about it! I think I’m also interested in picking up another book written by Laura Marshall and seeing if her writing changes in a new piece of prose.
Language/Style: 7 points
Story: 8 points
Plot: 7 points
Characters: 8 points
Favourite Quote: “That night was the end of everything, and the beginning. The end of something is always the start of something else, even if you can’t see it at the time.”