REVIEW: An Anonymous Girl, Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

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

I started reading An Anonymous Girl thinking that I was in for the same shocking, whirlwind rollercoaster that I got from Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen’s first novel, The Wife Between Us. It didn’t take me very long to begin to doubt the magic that even the first book held.
It was February 2018, I was a different person back then. I had different hair, lived in a different country and thought that this writing duo actually had something to offer... 11 months have passed since then and that thought has gone right along with it.
One that has replaced it, is that I think it may be time for authors in the psychological thriller genre to take a step back and have a long, hard look at the books that they are writing; the direction the genre is moving in. Because, despite the capital-P-word being used in its name, it really doesn’t mean that their books need to shit on everything that the discipline is trying to achieve.
Because, unlike authors in nearly every other genre, psychological thrillers seem to feel the need to constantly rehash the same tropes that were last seen as acceptable back in the 1950s — evil psychologists, suicides for dramatic tension, beautiful girls with ‘weak’ constitutions.
If you are imagining the scene in black-and-white, on a stormy night, inside the terrifying stone walls of an asylum, you wouldn’t be that far off.
I suppose that this is what happens when a genre is obsessed with beautiful, mentally ill girls who alternate between giggles or schemes when their minds have wandered. But, people like that do not exist, not outside of bad thrillers and Shakespeare plays and long-repeated folk tales. The characters were implausible and melodramatic, dimension so completely lacking that a strong gust of wind could have blown them over.
And, the writing! This is what Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen should have been focussing on. Not the bad ’twists’, the damaging portrayal of therapists, the references (dear god, the references!), or the characters that have equally come straight from AHS: Asylum or an early-James Bond flick. But, because of the neglect (I mean, it had to have been neglect. Even the tiniest bit of focus would have made it readable, at least), the book felt like a first draft.
Compared to The Wife Between Us - at least what I think I remember of it - this book felt apart at every single one of its seams.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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