Anyone else a huge fan pf psychological thrillers? They are probably one of my favorite genres of books and they always keep me guessing! An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen is no different with the whole story giving you the feeling that you might be right only to be followed with immediately feeling like you are wrong.
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After reading Pekkanen and Hendricks' first book, The Wife Between Us, I had high hopes for this book. The Wife Between Us was full of crazy twists that made me never feel settled in the story. An Anonymous Girl was similar but different at the same time.
** If you have not read this book, but would like to, you have been warned that there are spoilers ahead!
We are introduced to the protagonist, Jessica Farris, who is a financially motivated makeup artist who tries to make enough to cover her own costs, as well as some of her family medical bills. Her sister is disabled after falling out a window in their family home, which Jessica feels the responsibility for because she was supposed to be watching her sister at the time.
Through the story she gets involved in a study about morality which gets her in contact with Dr. Shields, the psychiatrist behind the study. Dr. Shields initially is genderless to the reader, but is later revealed to be a woman named Lydia. As the reader, I thought this character initially was a man, which I am ashamed to admit. Am I the only one who was mistaken right off the bat?
As the story progresses, Jessica is asked to become more involved in the study by Dr. Shields and is put into a few situations where she is made uncomfortable. Some of the situations that she is put in feel so outrageous, such as being asked to do makeup for women when she did not have an official appointment booked with them through her company. Dr. Shields had her contact the women and get personal information from them, and in one of the appointments the woman's boyfriend starts to get intimidating.
There are also a lot of moral dilemmas in the book that made me feel uncomfortable for Jessica. For instance, one of her actual clients was a woman who was excited for what seemed to be a date for her anniversary. Jessica was in a hurry to get her makeup done because Dr. Shields asked her to pick up something for her and drop it off at her house at a certain time which was shortly after her makeup appointment.
At one point she is short with the woman for taking a quick call during their session from the woman's son. Before, the woman had been friendly and excited, but then after being snapped at, she is muted. Jessica then after a few minutes realizes that the woman's husband is deceased and she is going on a date with her kids to commemorate the day.
If I were in that situation, I would be mortified. This is definitely one of those instances where you do realize that you never know what someone else might be going through and how your actions can make a bad situation worse.
When I was reading this part of the book, I definitely got the cringe feeling and wanted to get through that part because it made me so uncomfortable. Especially it was all so that she could deliver some dumb falcon statue to Dr. Shields to give to her husband.
You start to learn that Dr. Shields' reason for this study to to test her husband, Thomas, for cheating, since he had cheated on her before. She is using Jessica as bait to see if her husband will do it again. You learn that this happened with a woman who owns a boutique a few blocks from his office as well.
When Jessica is sent to a museum as an assignment, she also meets a guy along the way when an old woman is hit by a car and he is helping her. A few days later, she asks him out for a drink, which leads to him staying at her place for the night. Turns out this guy is Thomas, Dr. Shields' lying cheating husband.
As you learn these new facts with Jessica, the story starts to get more muddled. There are lines of secrecy between Thomas, Lydia Shields, and Jessica. Jessica is unsure if she can trust either of them and doesn't know if they are working together against her. After realizing that she slept with Dr. Shields' husband without knowing that was their relationship, she is terrified of Dr. Shields finding out and for her own safety.
More and more details emerge revealing that Thomas also had an affair with one of Dr. Shields' previous subjects in the study, Subject 5 who was also known as April. Turns out April committed suicide six months prior to Jessica joining the study.
THE TWISTS KEPT COMING!
It turns out that Thomas never had an affair with the shop owner, it was a facade because he was unhappy in his marriage with Dr. Shields, but she was still deeply in love with him. Dr. Shields does figure this out and realizes that April joined her study because April was obsessed with Thomas and wanted to know his wife more. What what what, girl why?!?!
I know I am skipping a lot if you have read the book, but I wanted to get the gist of all this and all the twists and turns and u-turns you take throughout this book!
When you realize that Dr. Shields stole Thomas' Vicodin prescription and gave some of the pills to Jessica, and previously to April, you see that Dr. Shields "helped" April commit suicide. More like you suggested that April do this (April had attempted suicide a few years prior in high school, so this wasn't a far stretch) so as to preserve her husband's image. This is all because it turns out April was a patient of Thomas', which is illegal and could get him dragged for having slept with a patient.
The three of them have somewhat of a standoff on Christmas Day, which leads to Dr. Shields confessing to contributing to April's suicide. The next day she refills Thomas' prescription of Vicodin and commits suicide herself to preserve her own image because she confesses to this and writes a note to April's mother.
Throughout the whole book, I had a hard time trusting anyone! Even Jessica's sort-of boyfriend, Noah, seemed like maybe he was in on this whole mirage. I thought the story of An Anonymous Girl was an interesting way of seeing how you felt morally about certain situations. How do you deal with a tough situation in a way that does not tarnish who you are? Are there situations where it is ok to lie? Are white lies ok?
Even though I was not the person going through these situations, I could feel the emotions of them as I read the story because of the characters reacting in such believable ways. It felt like you were in the rooms or surroundings with the characters almost like a fly on the wall, making it feel like I overheard something I wasn't supposed to.
The story of An Anonymous Girl was psychologically thrilling and it certainly made me think about moral choices that I have made in my past as well as potential situations in the future. What if those situations were being monitored and my morals were being studied? Would that change how I handled a situation?
I was proud of Jessica as a character for realizing she needed to step outside of that study to figure out how to get herself safely out of the situation. She knew that the only person at that time that she could rely on was herself and she successfully got herself out of a potentially harmful situation with Dr. Shields.
If you have already checked out An Anonymous Girl, what did you think? How did this book make you feel about your moral choices? Comment below!