3 out of 4 stars
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Whenever I get a Facebook notification that one of the people I'm following - yes, I am a stalker - has changed their cover or profile picture, I get excited and go to have a look-see. Fortunately, the pictures are generally selfies or family members or pets. Rarely...okay, never...have the pictures been of my dead friends' mutilated bodies. Lexa Rhodes, unfortunately, is not so lucky. In Rob Watson's book, Friends List, a depraved killer is murdering the orphan's friends in the order in which they appear on her "Roommates" account, replacing their profile pictures as previously mentioned. Why are Lexa's friends being targeted? Is the killer saving her for last? Or does the killer have something more nefarious in mind?
As a huge fan of books involving serial killers with unique M.O.s, I couldn't grab this tome fast enough, and I am so glad that I took the chance. The tale opens much like the movie, Scream, introducing a pretty young girl who will be dead before the minute hand clicks over. From there, the action blends quite well with the suspense. Interspersed with the brutal killings are scenes wherein we see Lexa interacting with her remaining friends or her beloved twin, Alex, or her psychiatrist. If you've seen movies like the Scream series or the Final Destination films, you know the basic story flow. In addition to figuring out who's killing her friends and why, Lexa also has to contend with the mystery of what really happened on the night that her parents died in a cabin fire.
While I enjoyed the book overall, the best part by far was the latter quarter. By this point, I had long figured out the killer, but the author threw in two twists that totally blew my mind and made figuring out the murderer pale in comparison to everything else going on. No sooner had I partially recovered from the first hard jab than the author hit me with an uppercut from which I'm still trying to recover twelve hours later.
Even though the author did a superb job tying up the loose ends, I do still have a few questions, though they're not central to the plot. Cassie, for instance, is Lexa's blind friend, and it's mentioned at least twice that an accident caused the blindness. The exact cause it not given, though, so I was left curious. I don't want to give anything away by naming more things that I wonder about, but suffice it to say that I don't have as quite a "full" a sensation as I usually do after such a meaty book.
The characters in this tale are pretty much the stock characters one finds in movies such as I've named above. There are the requisite conceited girl, the cocky boy, and the virginal protagonist, among others. Also, while Lexa and her compadres are in their early-twenties, the book reads much like a teen novel, and I kept forgetting that the friends are a little older. Aside from Lexa and her twin, who are pretty well fleshed-out, everyone else is pretty much drawn with a very fine pencil. The author gave just enough information about them for the reader to recognize their type. Even so, I did enjoy their camaraderie with each other when they weren't mourning the newest death or worrying about their own mortality. I will say that not really getting to know the characters made it difficult for me to mourn their losses though. In fact, a couple of the friends were so cliché and unlikable that I was actually glad to see them go!
Lexa also has an interesting relationship with her twin, Alex. I'm sure that we've all heard that twins have a special bond that people born of single births will never be able to comprehend. I therefore think that Mr. Watson did a phenomenal job conveying just how strong that bond can be. When they gave each other a "look" or spoke without words, I got to know a little bit more about that connection, which I think served the story very well.
Unfortunately, this novel also has a couple of knocks against it. Perhaps its similarity to teen slasher movies is the cause, but I felt like the writing itself was a little sophomoric. For instance, each character's introduction was immediately followed with their simple description. Lexa is "a comely dark-haired twenty-two year old", her Aunt Amanda is "a slender woman in her mid-fifties", and CK is "a tall, dark-haired, handsome man". You get the idea. The rest of the tale is written much like this, with more telling than showing, aside from the murder scenes.
Even if I could overlook the simplicity of the writing, I could not ignore the numerous grammatical errors. The main missteps were mistakes in punctuation. There were also a number of instances where "onto" was used when it should have been "on to", or the author penned "in to" when it should have been "into". Mr. Watson did acknowledge proofreading help, but I strongly urge him to hire a professional editor so the book can become the polished gem that it could be.
I wish that I could give Friends List four stars, but due to the large amount of grammatical mistakes, I have to give it 3 out of 4 stars. The other things I mentioned are perhaps my own "pet peeves", so I won't lower the score any further because of them.
Any fan of teen slasher films or books should enjoy this tale, as should fans of murder mysteries or serial killer stories. Readers who enjoy a moderately-paced book that suddenly sucker-punches them with twists may like this as well. On the other hand, I would advise those who cannot tolerate graphic violence to steer clear of this novel. Whether you decide to read this or not, I'd also caution you against immediately checking out any friends' new profile pictures; you never know what you'll see!
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