An Anonymous Girl - Greer Hendricks, Sarah Pekkanen

An Anonymous Girl a collaborative effort by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen, is due for release in early 2019.  It is an interesting and nicely-paced thriller with some unfortunate credibility issues.  The story is told in alternating points of view, beginning with protagonist Jessica Ferris, a young woman barely getting by as a contract make-up artist in New York City.  In first-person narration, Jess describes her turning away from friends and a potential career in the theater after experiencing debasing sexual harassment.  She needs more income to support herself, and she also is secretly subsidizing expensive treatments for her sister with special needs.  During an appointment with two NYU students, Jess overhears them discussing a highly-lucrative university study that one of them is planning to skip out on the next day.  Jess decides to seize this opportunity for some quick cash by showing up for the appointment and impersonating the student.  It turns out that the study involves questions of morality and ethics and is being conducted by Dr. Shields-a well-respected psychology professor and therapist.  Dr. Shields provides the other voice in the novel, her chapters are presented from the second-person point-of-view.  After Jess and Dr. Shields meet in person, what began as a straightforward computerized questionnaire evolves into an expanded, in vivo sequence of experiments with greater personal risk and payment for Jess. Jess increasingly becomes dependent on the money and Dr. Shields but is unaware of the objectives of the research and its underlying motives.  The reader comes to understand that Jess is being manipulated, and she is not the first to be drawn into a potentially deadly scheme.  Hendricks and Pekkanen require the reader to believe that Dr. Shields has an almost supernatural ability to read people, collect details about them, and persuade them to act. While Jess is a sympathetic character, she makes many dubious decisions and her gullibility is often implausible. The stakes for Jess are so high, the reader might wonder why she allows herself to continue on such an obviously dangerous path.  A side romantic plotline is also cursorily brought into the story but it is thin and remains underdeveloped. An Anonymous Girl remains an entertaining novel, with some genuine thrills and originality for those who can suspend disbelief and overlook these minor flaws.