Friday, February 21, 2014

8 Heart Review: Friend Me by John Faubion and Kindle Fire HDX Giveaway!

Friend Me
John Faubion
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Page Count: 335

Release Date: February 4th 2014
Publisher: Howard Books (Simon and Schuster)
Source: Complimentary copy provided by tour publicist in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you, Litfuse!)
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

"You're afraid of becoming unfaithful, aren't you?"

Scott and Rachel’s marriage is on the brink of disaster. Scott, a businessman with a high-pressure job, just wants Rachel to understand him and accept his flaws. Rachel is a lonely housewife, desperate for attention and friendship. So she decides to create a virtual friend online, unaware that Scott is doing the exact same thing. As Rachel desperately tries to re-create a friendship with a friend who has passed, Scott becomes unfaithful and is torn between the love for his wife and the perfection of his cyber-girlfriend. But neither realizes that there’s a much larger problem looming...

Behind both of their online creations is Melissa, a woman who is brilliant—and totally insane. Masquerading as both friend and lover, Melissa programmed a search parameter into the virtual friend software to find her perfect man, but along the way she forgot to specify his marriage status. And Scott is her ideal match. Now Melissa is determined to have it all—Scott, his family, and Rachel’s life.

As Melissa grows bolder and her online manipulations transition into the real world, Scott and Rachel figure out they are being played. Now it’s a race against time as Scott and Rachel fight to save their marriage, and their lives, before it’s too late.

In today’s digital age, the internet presents all kinds of opportunities to test our personal boundaries, and this exciting and suspenseful story raises important questions about the ethics of virtual relationships. Friend Me will open your eyes to a new—and terrifying—moral dimensions and how they play out in the real world.

It was like a slap in the face when the full awareness struck her.
[Melissa] tried to kill me so she could replace me.
She wanted to steal her place as Scott's wife.
Rachel shrank within herself as the next explosive realization impacted on the fragile, shivering wall of what was left of her heart.
Replace me as my children's mother.

The deadly situation Rachel and Scott find themselves in is a domestic nightmare: an utterly creepy, technology-fueled nightmare. Both lonely and both exhausted—in different ways entirely—each turns to VirtualFriendMe, a website where one can personalize their own virtual friend—who can speak, chat, email, and even grow like a real human being. While VirtualFriendMe may be sweeping the nation, neither of them are aware of the fact that their conversations with their "friends" are being overridden by the company's developer, Melissa, who's set on loving Scott, the only man who's qualified in every area of her complicated algorithm—and yes, that means eliminating Rachel in the process.

Following Melissa as she slowly but surely develops and hatches her horrific plan is interesting; the dramatic irony is crucial in understanding her as more than an evil genius: as a person. To Rachel and Scott, Melissa is a monster, and while I wouldn't disagree, readers are acquainted with her in such an intimate, exposing way, that you can't help but sympathize with her. This, as you can imagine, is a conflicting emotion, and it's completely intentional on Faubion's part; it raises the questions of what it means to be faithful, what it means to be evil, and what it means to be human.

Faubion's voice is smooth and easy to follow, and the plot is cutting, deep and dark. The chapters are short, but each pack a huge punch; it was so hard for me to put this book down because I was so eager to find out what would happen next... and the what would happen after that, and that and that...

It's worth mentioning Friend Me is a Christian suspense, meaning a lot of the story's main issues—primarily Scott's struggle to resist temptation and remain faithful to Rachel—reference straying away from the path of God, and contain lots of prayer as well. The inherent Christian elements also made it a rather tame dark suspense; there's nothing gory or explicit, as much of the nitty-gritty occurs behind closed doors. I understand Christian fiction isn't for everybody, but take my advice with a grain of salt. Even if these religious traits had bothered me, I'd still have enjoyed the book because of how absorbing and intricate the world of VirtualFriendMe is.

Pros


Titillating suspense // Lots of danger and action // Fast-paced // Christian elements well incorporated into the entire length of the novel // Exciting, original sci-fi; Faubion creates an entertaining and intriguing virtual reality // Melissa is given an elaborate backstory

Cons


Characters don't get very personal; they seemed very unmemorable to me, even though a lot of the book is character-driven // Seems overdramatized

Verdict


Original and imaginative, while simultaneously current, edgy, and fast-paced, Friend Me creates a science fiction world that serves both as social commentary on the risks of being careless on the internet, and the sheer ease at which one can fall into temptation. The intense psychological manipulation and means one deluded woman will go to, just to get her way, will stun and captivate readers. John Faubion skillfully analyzes the difference and fine line between faithfulness and faith; his debut novel sentimentally speaks of the dangers of deviating from the word of God, and of depending too much on technology—which may be fun, but cannot and will not ever replace real life Americanflag

8 hearts: An engaging read that will be worth your while; highly recommended (x)

Giveaway!


Check out the details of this fabulous Kindle Fire HDX giveaway below. This is a tour-wide giveaway so Books à la Mode has no liability over winners, prizes, or shipping/handling. Good luck!