I just finished An Anonymous Girl after no time at all. This addictive page turner had me speeding through wanting to know how it ended and if any of my suspicions were true. Always a sign of a good psychological thriller.
I picked this one up after loving the first novel by these two, The Wife Between Us. That was an excellent debut, giving me very strong Gone Girl vibes, one of my favourite psychological thrillers.
An Anonymous Girl was quite similar to The Wife Between us, evoking the same feelings of both admiration and mistrust between our two female protagonists, and the slow unravelling of the notion of perfection.
“When an individual trusts another sufficiently to expose the true self–the deepest fears, the hidden desires–a powerful intimacy is born.”
We follow our two protagonists in alternating chapters. One, a young girl with her fair share of secrets and disabled sister that most of her money goes towards. And the other, a published and well renowned therapist and conducting a mysterious ethical and morality experiment.
“People are motivated to break their moral compasses for a variety of primal reasons: survival, hate, love, envy, passion. And money.”
When Jess overhears one of her make up clients planning to blow off participating in a study for $500, she decides to try and take her place and is allowed to as she ‘fits the profile’.
Immediately Jess is hit with the first question foreboding what is to come, “could you tell a lie without feeling guilt?”. From there on Jess is enticed down a path that will lead her to question her own ethics and the reality around her as her life and thoughts become increasing manipulated by the glamorous and mysterious Dr. Shields.
“We all have reasons for our actions. Even if we hide the reason from those who think they know us best. Even if the reasons are so deeply buried we can’t recognise them ourselves.”
The alternating chapters are a great device that allows us to experience the events that take place from both points of view. Jess we meet openly and in detail, learning about her life, personality, motivations and secrets as we experience along with her. In opposition, Dr. Shields POV is closed off, omnipresent and vague, feeding us little tidbits of information that don’t even feel reliable.
As time goes on, the stakes rise as Jess goes from admiring to abhorring Dr. Shields and realising how alone she has become. As Dr. Shields takes the experiment from the from the computer screen to the real world. Jess gets put into increasingly uncomfortable situations culminating in Jess getting trapped in a web of lies and distrust.
“It can be frightening to become acquainted with parts of yourself that you don’t like to admit exist.”
This is a really enjoyable psychological thriller which feels you little ongoing revelations and mini twists to keep you churning through the pages eager to get to the ending. I wouldn’t say it was a massive twist that I was expecting at the end, but more the full picture once all the puzzle pieces came together. That was pretty much the case with many ongoing clues finally making sense, but no big and shocking twist. I quite liked that as along the way, for me I wasn’t so much wondering what a big twist might be, but more how the hell was Jess going to get out of this crazy situation that was closing in on her on all sides.
“The intellect does not reign supreme in matters of the heart.”
There was I felt some weakness in the surrounding characters and side plots. This included what felt like an attempt at a romantic interest. These characters and situations felt to me as if they were only there to provide context for Jess, and also be plot devices used to illustrates Jess being distanced from others. I really think these didn’t get enough attention for me to really be invested, especially in her romantic life, and thus care when they started to fall apart. I also didn’t really love the epilogue, it just felt out of place and character at that point in the story and it wasn’t long enough to sell her decision to me.
Overall this was an easy yet engrossing read, with a nicely constructed plot I hadn’t come across before and a winning style and I will continue to pick up next books by these two.
I read this one for my Dymocks Reading Challenge prompt ‘”A book with a red cover”. You can check out my progress here!