Happy Bank Holiday to you! We’re very lucky across the UK this weekend, in that glorious sunny and hot weather has coincided with time off work – HURRAH!!!!!! It’s a rare phenomenon that even the weather forecaster on the BBC couldnt believe she was announcing.
I’ve got the windows to my house open, kids are playing outside and the birds are tweeting all day long. Early May really is my favourite time of the year.
This month has been a very busy one for me, as you will know from my last post I was jetting off to return to one of my favourite islands Tenerife. I had a glorious time, taking photographs of sunsets, eating lots of gelato, sunbathing, reading and climbing mountains.
Since then I returned home, ended up in Bulgaria for a week, fell in love with Hot Yoga and even had a Birthday, and was tremendously spoilt by my loved ones.
I have to say though, that one of the most exciting aspects of the month is that my old school friends and I received a new facebook notification; an invitation request to an event. This October, 12 years after we left school (I’ll let you do the maths)..we finally have a School reunion. It’s safe to say that everybody seems to be very excited, memories are being shared, teachers remembered, and there’s old photos coming out of the woodwork of happier, freer times, where nobody was apparently that interested in fashion or makeup, and instead focused on great friendships and doing well at school. We may look terrible but the joy on people’s faces of being together is undeniable. School may have had it’s ups, downs and tough times, but I think we all miss our school days on occasion, and I look forward to old friendships rekindled and a good catch up with a really nice bunch of people, now that we are all older and wiser.
Have you ever had a school reunion? If so, what was it like? If you haven’t, will you plan one?
The story in this month’s read resolves around a school reunion, and old school feuds. Hopefully mine and yours, will bear no resemblence to this one at all.
FRIEND REQUEST, BY LAURA MARSHALL
Notification: Maria Weston wants to be friends on Facebook.
Social media. It seems you have to have social media these days in some form or other to receive the most up to date information on the lives of your friends, aquantainces, out of town family members and old colleagues, local events, and to receive any form of decent customer service.
I myself have both facebook, linkedin and obviously readers, you know I have instagram where I post my life in squares, along with keeping you up to date with all my reads and hints about the next review (@Veryprettylittlethings).
But is Social Media a good or bad thing to have? Recently you may have seen in the press that Facebook have landed themselves in a spot of bother regarding our data as Facebook users, which have seen many users close down their accounts.
But how dangerous is social media, and our need to share our lives in many cases at least once a day? We check in to events and locations, we share our holiday photographs, we tag our friends with us, we post pictures of our homes and gardens; finally, we communicate in community groups and accept friend requests from people we barely know. Anybody can look up our information and our photographs, if you are not too strict with your privacy settings.
It’s a reoccuring joke, but one that holds strong ground. You can find out someone’s life story using social media in less than 5 minutes. Does the benefit of sharing our lives, and that little buzz of a notification, really outweigh the risks?
It’s current day and our story dubbed to be ‘the most addictive thriller you’ll read all year’ begins with Louise, a self employed, single mum living in London. One day, whilst on Facebook, Louise receives a new friend request notification email. Once the screen refreshes, she is stunned by what she sees.
The friend request is from Maria Weston, a girl that they all believe to be dead, for the past 25 years.
Louise logs on to Facebook to find out more about the Maria Weston who has requested her Facebook friendship, but finds very little. Then, another red bubble appears on Louise’s notification bar.
‘Sharne Bay High Reunion Committee invited you to the event Sharne Bay High Reunion Class of 1989’
The reunion is being held in a fortnight’s time, old names appear on the screen as Louise remembers them one by one, how they were at school, and how they may be all this time on. Louise knows how one name is to this day however, Sam, who is father to Louise’s son Henry. They had met at school in the same crowd, as a result of Louise hanging on to popular Sophie’s coattails. With this new information at hand and butterflies in her stomach, Louise reaches out to Sophie via Facebook Messenger and the two arrange to meet. It would appear from the outside, that not a lot has changed with Sophie all these years on. Louise, nervous about the strange friend request, confides in Sophie about what she has received.
‘Oh, did you get that too? From the girl who drowned?’
Sophie disregards the notification as a joke, however Louise feels that it may have been to do with the way that they treated her at school, something that she has felt a constant lingering of shame about for the last 27 years, unable to forgive herself for what they did.
Sophie however, shrugs this claim away. ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about Louise, I barely knew her’.
Over the next fortnight leading up to the reunion, Louise receives frightful messages on Facebook. She is unsettled, worried and frightened. One day she takes Henry to the park, and he goes missing. Once found, he tells his Mummy about the lady he was speaking to, about his favourite subject, trains.
This drives Louise into sheer panic and anxiety, who is following her, and what does this have to do with Maria Weston? Is it because of what they did to her? Louise feels responsible for her death.
We flash backward and forwards in time throughout the book. In modern day, Louise is being increasingly stalked, tantalised and threatened. In 1989, we learn about what really took place at the night of the Prom, and that this entire social media activity, may all be an act of revenge from a torrent of School Girl Bullying, from beyond the grave..
Firstly, I really enjoyed the themes of the book. I felt that they were relevant, realistic and more importantly, it really made me think about my own social media activity. Am I putting myself and my friends at risk by tagging us at locations? What can someone learn about my life in less than 5 minutes? Think also of snap chat maps, I think we all should be more careful of who we let into our social media lives, and this book was fantastic at creating awareness of this.
The bullying at school and the way that Sophie responded to it with disregard, but clearly through shame for her actions in her later years made me think about the way people treat one another full stop. This could be work, home, family or school. Is it really worth the guilty feeling in your stomach for that small rise you receive from putting someone down or making them feel uncomfortable? Why do people bully in the first place, what are they really gaining long term? How it is affecting the minds and lives of those on the receiving end? I am sure we are all guilty of acting and behaving in a way at some point or another that is mean, careless or thoughtless, that really upset another person, either with intent or without. I liked that the book’s theme was on the repercussions of treating someone badly, a reminder to us all to treat people with kindness and care as much as possible.
Personally, I felt that the speed of the book was a little slow, and dragged out for far too long what it actually was that Louise and Sophie had done to Maria. In all honesty, by the time we learnt what it was, my actual reaction was ‘Are you kidding me, that was it?!’. Don’t get me wrong, I do not condone what happened, but with the build up and tension created in the book from Louise’s anxiety, 27 years of guilt and the Facebook activity, I have to say I was expecting much worse. It was a complete anti climax and in all honesty it was my overall low point of the book. After so much hype on the front cover of ‘an excellent twist’ and a ‘one-sittting must’ read, I couldn’t understand the great acclaim.
From that point on, I found Louise to be neurotic, ‘Maria Weston’ to be petty and cruel, and Sophie to be a young girl trapped in a now-old woman’s body. I felt sincere dislike to the characters near the end of the book, and found myself not caring much for what happened to them, which I felt was poor writing from Laura Marshall. I understand the need to build tension and suspense, but the way it was dragged out and with many red herrings thrown in, it was complete overkill for the actual event. In my opinion, I feel that we could have been told what Louise and Sophie had done a few chapters in, it really would not have made much difference to the behaviour of the characters or of the end result.
Considering that the characters were supposed to be 27 years apart in time from the prom and the reunion, I cannot say that the maturity level within them really changed. There was no character development through the ages.
Once we got to the reunion event in the story, it became obvious that the author was trying to send us down wrong paths, and I felt that more could have been explored with the character of Claire Barnes. Considering that Claire was the most popular girl in school, I would have expected more from her in terms of involvement, and very little was created for this character in modern day at the school reunion.
The end of the story although somewhat predictable, I have to say I did enjoy. It was a good twist, however without giving too much of the action away for you readers, I would have expected supicions to have been raised about this character long before.
So the crux of the matter I guess, is would I read another Laura Marshall novel, and would I class this as thriller? Well it’s safe to say I wasn’t thrilled, and I started to question the quotes on the front cover of the novel. Had they read the same book?! The answer dear readers, is no. I wouldn’t read any more a like this slow paced drivel.
However I always recommend we read books both good and bad, for how will we know what is good if we don’t read the bad. Pick up a copy yourself and please, let me know in the comments your own personal feelings on the characters and story line. Did you have the same reaction as I? Or were you truly shocked to learn what timid Louise had done in the name of popularity?
CAN’T PUT IT DOWN RATING: 2/5
I could relate to many of the themes in the book as I’m sure we all can in some way, and it did make me think about my own life both at school and now. It prompted me to be more careful about what I post on social media, who I accept as a friend and when I upload information. This is to be credited, for bringing such an important topic to the forefront of our minds, and for putting into fiction the reality of what so could easily happen to any one of us.
However, thriller this was not. Overdone suspension and tension, underdone character development of key players I know from school cliques would have had much more involvement in the activities, an overuse of red herrings and a fairly predictable ending. This wasn’t a ‘one hour devour’ as described by Heat Magazine, more of a ‘long nibble’ till we got to the crux of the matter in the book.
Where to buy:
WASHED DOWN WITH:
This month I am loving Suki Tea Earl Grey Blue flower Loose leaf tea. It’s the tea served in Patisserie Valerie for anyone lucky enough to have been!
A gorgeous refreshing alternative to Earl Grey, the blue flower undertones really bring the tea to life. It is very perfumed but in a sweeter and softer way than many other varieties of Earl Grey. It’s my favourite tea to make a pot of, and to wash down my favourite avocado and poached egg toast with!
Taste rating 5/5 – It’s definitely my favourite Earl Grey!
Get yours for £4.90 per 100g direct from Suki Tea (suki-tea.com). Also available in Pyramid.
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