A Book Review by Lori Carol Maloy
An Anonymous Girl by Hendricks and Pekkanen
Genre: Psychological Thriller/Mystery/Suspense
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Writing Duo: Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen
In this Hendricks and Pekkanen novel, the protagonist, Jessica, is in her mid-twenties and trying to survive in the big city. Her dream of working on a production set doing makeup isn't happening. She's a mobile makeup artist struggling to pay her bills and help her family.
During one of her mobile makeup visits, she overhears her clients discuss a psychological ethics study that is paying each subject $500 to answer a few questions. When her client says that she’s going to no-show the appointment, Jessica steals the information off the girl’s phone and shows up in her client’s place.
What a way to begin an ethics study.
She lies again when she tells the facilitator that she showed up to take her sick roommate’s place. The facilitator gets approval from the psychiatrist (Dr. Lydia Shields) who is running the study, and Jessica is allowed to participate. Though, at first, she hesitates to answer the eerily personal questions, in the end, she decides she needs the money to help herself and her parents.
Despite how she entered the study, she begins to feel connected to the unseen psychiatrist.
Dr. Shields, who she doesn’t meet for a while, asks Jessica to continue after the first phase of the study concludes. She offers to pay Jessica for answering even more questions. Soon the questions and the tasks required will become more ethically challenging and deeply personal.
Boundaries become blurred and nearly non-existent.
Without spoilers, I will say that as a therapist myself, I was interested in the novel's deep psychological premise. I wanted to know how Dr. Lydia Shields ticked and why she behaved the way she did.
During therapy, clients reveal their most intimate traumas and secrets, and because of this, there can be a power differential. Therapists must heed and honor their oath of doing no harm to the client.
What I didn't connect with:
For me, I didn’t like the major switch in POV when inside Lydia Shields’ head. Though allowed inside her thoughts, she is kept at a distance. Her 2nd person POV is too passive, and this switch seemed awkward, especially at first, though I did eventually get into it and stopped noticing. The authors’ choice to use this tactic for Dr. Shields didn’t allow me to get into her head the way Dean Koontz allowed his readers to get into Edgler Vess’ inner mind, which did make Koontz’s novel Intensity quite intriguing and scary.
I also felt the ending was too abrupt and could have been stretched to satisfy the reader. I also didn’t feel that Lydia’s actions at the end of the novel were in line with her personality type. I don’t believe she would have done what she did in the end.
What I did like about An Anonymous Girl was I found it to be well-written and full of intrigue, mystery, and character development. It was a quick read for me, and I couldn't put the book down.
Jessica's ending twist matched her personality type. At least, I thought so. The foreshadowing the authors provided made her final actions believable. Pay attention to the clues and you'll see what I mean.
Overall, I enjoyed the premise and psychological aspect of this novel very much, not just for the intrigue and the toxic but unique bond that Dr. Shields and Jessica became bound up in, but in all the motivations and actions of each character.
Dr. Lydia Shields was always watching.
The authors did give the characters depth. This novel has a great premise and brought up a lot of what-ifs as far as human behavior. I loved this aspect.
I gave An Anonymous Girl book review a Knives-Up and definitely recommend it. I’d love to hear what you liked and didn’t like about this novel on this post and any of my social media outlets.
Happy reading, Lori