Friday, August 10, 2018

Book Review: "An Anonymous Girl" by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

The next time you consider signing up for a research study, you might want to think twice—and you will after reading this book!

You're Invited: Seeking women aged 18 to 32 to participate in a study on ethics and morality conducted by a preeminent NYC psychiatrist. Generous compensation. Anonymity guaranteed. Call for more details.

Jess is a makeup artist who came to New York dreaming of a career in the theater. She has a lot of secrets she's kept hidden, which has led her to become totally self-reliant, although money is one of the biggest sources of anxiety she has to deal with. When she overhears a client thinking about not showing up for a research study she was supposed to participate in—and it pays $500—Jess decides there's nothing wrong with pretending to fill in for the young woman, since $500 would really help with this month's rent.

Jess figures all she'll need to do is answer some questions, collect her money, and leave. She wasn't expecting the questions to be difficult, like Could you tell a lie without feeling guilt? Describe a time in your life when you cheated, or Have you ever deeply hurt someone you care about? But more than that, she wasn't expecting the psychiatrist conducting the study—whom she never met—to give feedback on her answers, and encourage her to be more honest and more in-depth.

As the sessions continue, and the payoff increases, Jess can't help but wonder what the study really is all about. While she is utterly unsettled when the psychiatrist, whom she finds out is the renowned Dr. Lydia Shields, asks whether Jess would be willing to expand her participation in the study. But when Jess learns that the compensation would be significantly higher, there's no way she can turn Dr. Shields' request down.

Expanding her participation in the study is definitely not what she expected. Dr. Shields starts to tell Jess where to go, how to dress, and whom to meet—and in some cases, that entails striking up a conversation with a specific man. Jess begins feeling uncomfortable, and wonders exactly what Dr. Shields wants to accomplish. More and more, she questions whether she can trust the doctor—and then Jess discovers a disturbing coincidence that she needs to hide from her, or the doctor could destroy her life.

An Anonymous Girl is a pretty wild book, full of twists and turns. You wonder how you might react in the same situation, but at the same time I found myself shaking my head in disbelief at times that Jess could be so clueless. There were definitely some surprises thrown in, but ultimately I had my ideas about how the plot would unfold. I just kept hoping that things wouldn't go completely awry, and I was pleased they didn't.

Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen, whose last book, The Wife Between Us, contained some shockers but didn't quite click for me, definitely kicked it up with An Anonymous Girl. I didn't love some of the characters (and I wondered whether some of this stuff could and does really happen) but the pacing of the book was terrific, and I was hooked from start to finish. I was also glad that the twists they threw in fit with the plot rather than just be included to confuse and shock.

I know this book will be everywhere when it's released in January, because it's the type of book you can't put down, and it definitely will keep you wondering what comes next. Hendricks and Pekkanen mesh well together, and I can't wait for their next book.

NetGalley and St. Martin's Press provided me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making this available!

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