An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

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Publish Date: January 8, 2019

All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Seeking women ages 18–32 to participate in a study on ethics and morality. Generous compensation. Anonymity guaranteed. 

When Jessica Farris signs up for a psychology study conducted by the mysterious Dr. Shields, she thinks all she’ll have to do is answer a few questions, collect her money, and leave. But as the questions grow more and more intense and invasive and the sessions become outings where Jess is told what to wear and how to act, she begins to feel as though Dr. Shields may know what she’s thinking…and what she’s hiding. As Jess’s paranoia grows, it becomes clear that she can no longer trust what in her life is real, and what is one of Dr. Shields’ manipulative experiments. Caught in a web of deceit and jealousy, Jess quickly learns that some obsessions can be deadly.

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Everybody’s a mad scientist, and life is their lab. We’re all trying to experiment to find a way to live, to solve problems, to fend off madness and chaos.”  — David Cronenberg

I love this formula for a story: A financially challenged, desperate, single female living in a big city trying to get by. This person is also smart, independent, resourceful, creative, and motivated by money. This main character, Jessica, fits this perfectly. She is motivated by money because she doesn’t have any.  She has a strong sense of family and is helping her family financially, even though she is barely scraping by. We learn more about her character through the questions posed to her during a morality and ethics study, and a lot more about her afterwards in real-life tests.

Who is the mysterious Dr. Shields? In the beginning, the doc was never in front of the subjects so I wondered if this person is a male or female. Why is this person so interested in Jessica? I had to find out.

I like this book even more than the authors’ first novel The Wife Between Us. It has a dark, ominous vibe plus twists and turns that I never expected. The plot is fascinating, the writing is stellar and it takes a different approach on storytelling. The book has so many great quotes.

“We all have reasons for our actions. Even if we hide the reason from those who think they know us best.”

“True change requires more than the tools I wield.”

“I don’t fear strangers… I’ve learned more harm can come from familiar faces.”

“When money and morality intersect, the results can illuminate intriguing truths about human character.”

“It is easy to judge other people’s choices. It is far more complex when the choices are your own.”

“A secret is only safe if one person holds it… but when two share a confidence, and both have self-preservation as their main motive, one of them is going to give.”

It’s told from two first person perspectives- Jessica and Dr Lydia Shields – and it switches for each chapter. There are no headings or labels to assist, and it’s up to the reader to figure out who is narrating. After the first few chapters, I was easily able to determine this because the character voices are so distinct.

The narration style of Dr. Shields is unique and different. She tells the story from her first person perspective; but, at times, her narration is directed at Jessica, like she is speaking directly to her. She is very analytical and references many therapy techniques,  behaviors, and well-known human studies/experiments. She is obsessive, cold, calculating, manipulative, controlling, and…. cray cray. I never knew where the story was heading.

If you like the protagonists from Social Creature by Tara Isabella Burton (my review here) or Believe Me by JP Delaney (my review here), this book’s for you. I recommend it.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars 5 Stars

Note: I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This quote sums up this book perfectly:

It’s not an experiment if you know it’s going to work.” — Jeff Bezos

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