An Anonymous Girl begins with Jessica, an isolated freelance makeup artist trying to make a life for herself in the big city.
Dr. Shields is running a psychological study on ethics, paying $500 to participants. Jess wasn’t initially part of the study, but sneaks her way in for the money and immediately intrigues Dr. Shields with her candid and thoughtful answers to the questionnaire.
The link between Jess and Dr. Shields grows stronger as Dr. Shields’ questions for Jess get more and more personal. Both parties seem to have a strange, somewhat obsessive fascination with one another. It’s an obsession that grows dark and suspenseful.
I wasn’t completely enamored with Hendricks and Pekkanen’s previous book, The Wife Between Us. While it was an interesting story, the number of twists, some of which seemed to come out of nowhere, felt forced. I gave that one a solid 3-star rating.
I’d rate An Anonymous Girl the same – 3 stars.
While it’s refreshing to not have twists that result in whiplash, there are a couple of annoying things here. One is the unneeded attention to detail. Jess’s every move is scrutinized and analyzed in a way that does not advance the story. As a result, small things take up a lot of space.
The other bothersome aspect is the passive second-person point-of-view. The story is told from both Jess and Dr. Shields’ voices. Dr. Shields’ section is told in the second-person point-of-view, so Jess is always referred to as “you.”
I don’t have anything against the second-person point of view. It was, in fact, used brilliantly in Caroline Kepnes’ book, You, told from the stalker’s point of view (so wonderfully creepy!). But here, the second-person POV is used so aggressively that the word “I” seems to be avoided at all costs.
As a result, every reference Dr. Shields makes to her own actions is done using a passive voice. Dinner is made. Bites are gingerly taken. Dishes are cleared. It breaks one of the cardinal rules of writing! Of course, it’s okay to break rules when the results justify it. Books don’t have to have impeccable grammar. But it’s not justified here. In fact, it’s mildly infuriating.
Here’s an example that shows both the unnecessary attention to detail and passive voice:
“After the lights are extinguished on the main level and the stairs are climbed, a lilac-colored silk nightgown and matching robe are selected. Night serum is dotted around the eyes with the gentle touch of a ring finger, then a rich moisturizing cream is applied.”
– An Anonymous Girl, Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
Despite these criticisms, though, An Anonymous Girl is still an enjoyable book.
As was The Wife Between Us. I believe these authors will be ones I continue to read simply for a fun, juicy story.
Watch this book review and other booktube videos on my Read Remark YouTube channel.
Many thanks for Netgalley and Macmillan for providing me with an advance copy of An Anonymous Girl in exchange for an honest review.
Music credit: YouTube