Book Review on An Anonymous Girl

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Synopsis:

“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.

Question #1: Could you tell a lie without feeling guilt?

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.

Question #2: Have you ever deeply hurt someone you care about?

As Jess’s paranoia grows, it becomes clear that she can no longer trust what in her life is real, 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.

Question #3: Should a punishment always fit the crime?

From the authors of the blockbuster bestseller, The Wife Between Us comes an electrifying new novel about doubt, passion, and just how much you can trust someone.”

I’m not sure if you recall but I did a review on The Wife Between Us as well! This is pretty exciting for me to read two novels from the same author(s) and actually get both reviews out. [Right now I have another review pending because I have yet to read the second book that I already own from that author.]

An Anonymous Girl is by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen. The novel has three “parts” with Sixtynine chapters and an epilogue following the end of the story with a total of 371 pages.

I’m not sure what is safe to say in this review. Everything I want to say could potentially give the entire book away, like spoilers. I’m going to try my best not to spoil anything which might make this review different from all the rest.

So I’ll start like this: I did enjoy the novel overall. I think to be safe the best thing I can do is point out some of the flaws the story had and the things it made me think. I don’t usually do that because I want to provide positive feedback or just openly admit I didn’t like it, but I did like the novel. Sometimes when you don’t want to spoil the secrets, you have to find a different angle for a review.

The main point to the story is given in the synopsis: A character by the name Jessica “signs up” for a morality psychology questionnaire with Dr. Shields. Problem number one, Jessica didn’t sign up for it, she cheated her way into it by hearing it paid a decent amount of money and Jessica needed/wanted that extra money. So she cheated her way into the test that she heard about through someone else while doing her day job. She got approved to be in the questionnaire because she fit the profile, obviously because if she didn’t there’d be no story to read.

The first thing that annoyed me was for about 50 pages they never tell you if the Dr. is a man or a woman but they lead you to believe it’s a man, they want you to believe that Jessica, the main character thinks the Dr. is a man. So part of you assumes this particular detail is of importance or will make more sense later why it went on for fifty pages into the story. However, once Jessica learns that Dr. Shields is a woman, it’s quickly done and over. Then the rest of the story (in the background really. . .) Jessica makes comments about the appearances and attractiveness of Dr. Sheilds.

*Quick note, I apologize if I ever spell Dr. Shields name wrong by typing Sheilds, since it’s a name and capitalized, my eyes won’t adjust correctly if I mix the two up. I apologize now in case that does happen.* >Edit: it did happen and I had to go back through once I realized I might have been typing it wrong from the start, so now as I’m editing it, if I miss some, I still apologize, I’ve been at this for two hours already and it’s now four in the morning, I should go to sleep already.<

It bothered me that they spent so much time into that detail for it to be of little importance to the actual story. It might have had a bigger meaning in their minds but as it was all played out, the message didn’t seem important really. They want you to realize we all make quick assumptions based on our own reasoning. Maybe Jessica wanted the doctor to be a man because she was lacking a proper non-father like male figure in her life. She is single, in her twenties and no children. She has a little sister Becky, and two loving parents (Mom and Dad as they are referred to.) When she finally figures out the doctor is a woman she makes a quick note to make sure this doesn’t impact how she answers the questions but then just as that problem is addressed, it’s dismissed and you are left wondering why on earth it took fifty pages for this message to be cleared up. I just kept reading it and thinking “Did I miss where they said the Doctor was a male?” I guess my point here is simple, they set me up to feel like I wasn’t actually reading the novel correctly. Like I was rushing through it just to finish the story, but I had just begun and already felt behind. So that was the first thing to bother me. 

(Around page 54:) “Yet she was kind to me. She pushed me to reveal things I never talk about, and she comforted me.”

She acts as if this woman is a friend, not a professor paying her to take a survey. She acts like all women are awful and evil who don’t truly care about anyone ever. The way the authors wrote this portion make you assume women are the problem, even though through all the other details in the story, Jessica has no friends that are evil or backstabbers. Jessica seems to have a decent relationship with all her girlfriends, a few she is close with, a couple she is acquaintances with but all very friendly and overall good people. I wasn’t quite sure why this sentence was important in relation to the doctor is a woman.

(Page 55) “I can’t let the fact that Dr. Shields is a woman change my original plan. She is paying me an awful lot of money and I still have no idea why, or what for. And sometimes the people who seem the most accomplished and together are the ones who can hurt you the deepest.”

This is that part I was just telling you about. It’s done and over, this was the last time the gender of the doctor is acknowledged as important and the importance of it never truly opens up. All the other details after this line start to fall into place but they don’t pertain to why it matters if the doctor was a man or woman because it’s 2019, that detail is no longer crucial, the story could have been effective either way. Maybe it’s just me. Also, one more thing about that quote, my first thought was “Duh. . . it’s called jealousy, and there’s a thing called competition.” If you know Tyler Perry’s Madea then it would be the “Madea’s Getting Got theory.” Where you gotta get them before you get got.

Jessica, you act as if all women are evil and bad but you willingly lied and cheated your way into a paid survey then you assumed you had the right to question why the survey was what it was? I mean, come on girl. You had no idea what you were getting into but you figured it was “easy money” and THEN you second-guessed yourself that maybe it might have been a bad idea? Maybe next time you’ll use your common sense brain and say “I know nothing of what I’m getting myself into, maybe I shouldn’t do this.” So in a sense, you deserved everything that happened to you throughout the rest of the book. Kind of, I’ll discuss that in a moment.

Next, is both a good thing and bad so I definitely want to include this detail in my review: there are three “parts” (Part One, Part Two, and Part Three.) With a total amount of pages at 371 and 69 chapters. 69. That’s a lot of chapters because most of the chapters are one to three pages and then the rest of the chapters are six or more pages. With the short chapters I started getting annoyed (which is why I’m including this detail because that’s the second thing that I noticed while reading the novel.) You know how you convince yourself “Just one more chapter and I’ll go to bed. . .” but then you flip the page and your one more chapter is already over. I wanted more but there wasn’t more left. I’d have to keep my promise if I wanted to stay true or I’d have to break my promise and admit that I’m weak and a liar. Occasionally, I’d just accept that I’m a weak liar and read another chapter but there were times I’d have no choice but to end it right away after just one or two pages and put the book up. That note is both a positive and a negative, if you prefer shorter chapters this style is for you, if you hate short chapters then this novel might annoy you quickly so be prepared to make that choice.

Random quote time: (I loved the way they write this novel, there’s a lot of really deep comments in this novel that I’m sure are accurate in the real world. If you were to do your research on psychology you’d probably agree with what this novel says behind the fact that it’s a fictional story.

“Presenting an unremarkable facade to the outside world is the norm; superficial conversations comprise the majority of social encounters. When an individual trusts another sufficiently to expose the true self — the deepest fears, the hidden desires — a powerful intimacy is born.”

“You invited me in today, Jessica. Your secret will be kept in confidence . . . if all goes well.” (Page 70)

I wanted to share that top part of the quote because of the truth behind it for me personally. I find my best relationships with those in my life are people I was able to truly get to know. The people who were willing to risk being completely open with their fears, their joys, their secrets. Those are the best bonds I form with people and anyone who says “I don’t like talking about those things because I’d rather be happy or not admit weakness or feel sad, I tend to push those people away. I don’t want small talk and I don’t like people in my personal life being fake. You only get one life that we know of unless you believe in reincarnation which is a conversation for a different blog. Assuming the basic knowledge, we only get one life, why waste it on small talk or people who act like the real world isn’t a thing? Life can be sad or even frustrating! It’s okay to be completely yourself.

Anyways, I don’t mean to get too personal here but I definitely wanted to share that quote for two reasons; 1. to get you thinking about your own life. How often do you truly trust another person to open up and talk about anything and/or everything with them? How many people in your life do you feel comfortable doing that with? And 2. to show just how awesome these ladies are at writing. This is the style of most of the book. Some of you may shy away from this style and that’s okay but to me, I loved it and it was definitely what kept me reading more.

The next thing that kind of bothered me was my thought process as I was reading parts of the story. The main character Jessica would talk about Dr. Sheilds in detail but then question it, and I would think to myself: “This person is a well-known Professor in New York, google them. Google that piece of information because it is most certainly something you can look up online. We aren’t talking about an unknown homeless person living in a tent next to a hundred others that have no access to the internet, we are talking about a person who would need to have somewhat of an online persona to attract more people to her business and/or classes. But then the authors would then lead you straight to the part where Jessica finally discovers what Google is and you again think to yourself “I would have done that six pages ago but I’m glad we’re finally here now. . .”

My question to you, audience, is this: do you like that in a book? Where you question it and challenge it, telling the character what you’d do in their shoes? Do you prefer when you’re right or do you like it when you’re wrong and it’s one huge surprise?

I usually like a mix. Too much of me yelling at the character to do what I say and then she does it becomes annoying because I’m predicting the whole story before or as it happens. But if the character never does what I tell her to do then it makes me wonder how the story would have gone if she would have just listened. Like a good classic horror film style yelling at the television. “No! Don’t go in there, the killer is in there, leave the house now!!!” Then the main character opens the door and boom, there’s the killer, just like you told them. The main character’s now dead and you’re like, well, if you would have listened to me then you’d still be alive. But, I didn’t write this story and I try to remind myself that when I get too involved. Personally, I think the reason it bothers me is only when the detail doesn’t become important because I want to know WHY it was added, WHY it was addressed, and WHAT could its intention in the story be. Why was this part left but other parts deleted, what was so important about THIS detail it had to stay and what WAS deleted to make room for this detail? Since I’m not an editor or the author, I don’t get to know those details. That takes away my focus from the actual story when I’m spending more time questioning everything instead of enjoying the storyline.

The main thing I kept asking myself throughout the first half of the novel is “why is this detail important to the storyline?” Meaning: why did it take fifty pages to make it clear the Doctor was a woman and not a man, why did it take six pages for the main character to google something she should have done at least five pages sooner? Why the delay in certain details when nothing in between the first mention of the detail and when the action came did anything special or crucial happen where it needed to be drawn out so much. To help with my point, I’d direct you to around page 50 or specifically 52, there’s a piece of information that Jessica obtains where she could google it immediately and move on. But she delays it, questions it, obsesses over it, then finally googles it. This detail is not about the gender of the doctor but rather a location in New York.

Another detail that could have been shortened much sooner since it never became an issue for it to be longer. Once the question was answered the story flawlessly moved on. I could just assume that half these issues are just “fillers.” Extra junk in a story that fills up the page to take it from “just a book” into “Now a novel.” Add some extra pages, some extra chapters. Really fill up the pages front to back for you so you feel like you’re getting a lot to read but in reality, you’re not getting much of a real story. You can’t be getting a real story if half your story you question why the detail mattered. The man in the brown coat walked down the street. A bird flew by his head very closely. The man bent down ten seconds later to pick up a quarter off the ground. The man walked into a store and used the quarter for his beverage and then left. The quarter was important, the bird was not, why was the bird added? Filler my friend, the bird was added as a filler to make it longer so you’d have more to read. Kind of this like the whole review so far, full of questions and comments but are we actually getting anywhere? Exactly.

So overall, you have Jessica Farris who enters a questionnaire hosted by Dr. Lydia Shields who is married to Dr. Thomas Cooper. Jessica meets and starts to like Noah, the Breakfast All Day guy but she doesn’t tell Dr. Shields about Noah, officially ever. However, Dr. Shields finds out about Noah and that becomes a detail. An important one later on in the story. There is subject 5 and the infamous boutique owner. Mom, Dad, Becky who are family to Jessica. Lizzie is Jessica’s best friend and I believe two other females are friends but they really don’t play a major role so I didn’t keep track of their names.

Jessica enters the questionnaire, things go “well” for her and is invited to participate in an exclusive part of the survey. Jessica accepts and her life is changed forever. Towards the end of the story, a lot of bad happens really quickly almost to the point you want to put the book down just to breathe. It becomes overwhelming how quickly everything rapidly turns to crap no matter what turn is taken or alley is hidden in. Then just like that, everything is wrapped up neatly with a bow and the story ends leaving you with your mouth open in shock.

As much as these previous things “bothered” me, I would read it again knowing how it made me feel because it was worth it. I love the work these two ladies do together and they are definitely onto something magical with their style and flow together. So please, if you get the chance to pick this story up and read it all the way through, please do! And let me know what you think, did you agree with my assessment? What are your thoughts? I’m sorry I couldn’t give you a better review but this was a tough one without spoiling a lot of details that weren’t already available to the audience. It’s one of those stories you can’t really describe unless it’s to someone who has already read it. Thank you so much for your time today!

If you’d like to check out their other work or either of the authors they definitely encourage it, they love hearing from their fans!

Greer Hendricks-Author’s webpage

Author’s web page for Sarah Pekkanen

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