An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Publication Date: January 8, 2019
My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪🍪
Let me preface this review by saying that I am a HUGE fan of this author team’s first publication, The Wife Between Us. That book is up there on my list of absolute favorite psychological thrillers ever, and I read a lot of psychological thrillers. That being said, I had no idea there was a second book in the making until a crisp, untouched paperback ARC of An Anonymous Girl landed on my desk. When I receive any new book, it’s usually enough to put me in a good mood for the rest of the day, so my general book-nerdy excitement coupled with the realization of who this book was by had me bouncing off the walls, and I am not a generally bouncy person.
Needless to say, my expectations were high, which for me, doesn’t usually work out in my favor. I folded a nice solid crease in the first page the minute I got home, and dug in, and I read this guy fast. Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen know how to build suspense and make a reader ask ‘what is really happening?’ The primary way that they do so, is by splitting up chapters between narratives. In and of itself, this is not an unusual tactic for an author to pursue, however, what makes it stand out in their writing is how extremely, unnaturally different the narrators are. Our protagonist is Jess, a young New Yorker, still grappling to find her footing in the city and in her career, strapped for money and living with the ever present guilt of a snap decision she made years ago. She has demons for sure, and she deals with them primarily by sleeping with men she doesn’t know, but the majority of her character traits are somewhat relatable.
Dr. Shields, on the other hand, narrates her chapters with a bone-chilling authority that makes you feel like you’re a five year old kid being reprimanded for stealing a cookie before dinner. Page after page after page. It’s impressive. The authors’ use of the second person voice in her segments is incredibly effective and unnerving. You know where Dr. Shields stands at all times, and it is always somewhere with more authority than you. Her segments had me looking over my own shoulder even when the book was closed.
The split in voice is what made this book most compelling for me. It was almost as if, bear with me here, there were two authors. Which could very easily lead me off on a tangent about how the whole co-author thing works, because I have enough trouble making writing decisions with myself. (Seriously, how do you pull a fictional story like this out of two different brains and somehow end up with one cohesive, enthralling narrative? I digress).
Getting back on track, this tale follows Jess as she *spoiler alert* decides to take the place of a stranger in an anonymous research project on ethics (ah, the irony) in order to make some extra, and much needed cash. The project ends up being not so anonymous, and not so ethical, and by the end of the story Jess’s life has been completely rerouted to fulfill Dr. Shields’ own personal agenda.
This novel is twisty and twisted, there is no denying that, however, it didn’t have that big “mic drop” moment that I was expecting from the authors given their last book (like I said, it’s never a good thing when my expectations get too high). I would be remiss if I didn’t commend this book for taking a unique approach to the psychological thriller. I’ve found that a lot of books in the genre tend to stick to very similar trends and motifs, so the ethical study situation had me thrown for a loop. Overall, An Anonymous Girl is another notable accomplishment by a tremendously talented author team.
It felt appropriate to pair this book with the Insane Peanut Butter Cup Cake (recipe by Cookies and Cups) because not only are they both filled with unexpected layers (peep that hefty peanut butter frosting layer running through the middle of this cake), and finished all too soon, they also keep you guessing. How, you might ask, does a cake keep one guessing? Well this masterpiece somehow manages to contain 11 cups of powdered sugar. No, that is not a typo: ELEVEN. I still don’t fully understand how that’s possible, but if you’re planning to try making this epic dessert (which I highly recommend), you’re probably going to need to buy three bags of the stuff. I promise you it’s worth it, but if you’re simultaneously reading while devouring this treat, five to ten napkins may be appropriate companions. #treatyourshelf
My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪🍪