*I received a free ARC of this book, with thanks to NetGalley and Pan Macmillan. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: 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 is real in her life, and what is one of Dr Shields’s manipulative experiments. Caught in a web of deceit and jealousy, Jess quickly learns that some obsessions can be deadly.
An Anonymous Girl is one of the creepiest books I have ever read that isn’t a horror story.
The tension starts very early on in the story, as Jessica sneaks and lies to trick her way onto a psychological study to make some extra cash, and it is clear from the beginning that there is something very odd about the study and the doctor who is running it.
Themes of lies, deceit, self-interest and manipulation run throughout the novel and no character is exempt, whether it is white lies to save a relationship or intricate deception to cover deep dark secrets. To quote House, ‘everyone lies’: the trick here is to work out whose lies are innocent and well-meaning, and whose are very, very dangerous.
The story is told from two different perspectives in alternating segments, with Jessica’s viewpoint alternated with Dr Shields. Dr Shields’ sections are addressed in the second-person, to Jessica, which gives them an uncomfortable directness that helps to keep the reader off-balance and increases the psychological impact of events.
I was a little surprised at the abruptness of the climax – I would have liked the big moment to be more dramatic and dangerous after such an atmospheric build-up – however I did enjoy the way the plot continued to twist unexpectedly even after what I thought was the ‘end’.
This is a clever psychological thriller that will leave you feeling unsettled and wary. Recommended for fans of the intriguingly uncomfortable.
Remember the rules: Be open and truthful, and avoid pivoting away from any embarrassment or pain these questions provoke.
If this initial query, which is relatively mild, unsettles you, then you might be one of the women who wash out of the study. Some subjects don’t return. This test isn’t for everyone.
You continue to stare at the question.
Maybe your instincts are telling you to leave without even starting.
You wouldn’t be the first.
– Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen, An Anonymous Girl
For more from Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen, check out their respective links below: