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. 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 in her life is real, and what is one of Dr. Shields’ manipulative experiments. Caught in a web of deceit and jealousy, Jess quickly learns that some obsessions can be deadly.
Review: I went into this book expecting a fun thriller. I typically don’t have high expectations for books that have “girl” or “woman” in the title. Normally they are fun but nothing amazing or containing any depth. This book was indeed a fun ride.
I was drawn in with the idea of a slow transition from being asked questions about ethics and morality to being asked to do real life experiments. But there wasn’t much lead up. Jessica answers survey questions twice and one in person question session before she is suddenly being asked to go flirt with a random married guy at a bar. It was sudden and weird. I know that I wouldn’t feel comfortable with that drastic of an escalation in an experiment.
I also had a hard time understanding why Jessica trusted Dr. Shields so much and why she felt dependent on her so quickly. Dr. Shields didn’t do much to engender that kind of trust and loyalty. But the chapters narrated by Dr. Shields didn’t reveal something she saw in Jessica’s personality that made her particularly vulnerable to being manipulated emotionally either. It felt like a plot device. Jessica was supposed to trust Dr. Shields implicitly so she did, not necessarily because anything happened to cause that to happen.
Those things aside, I enjoyed the way the plot progressed. Apart from the sudden escalation at the beginning, things really slowed down after that and I was drawn into the web. I knew there was some kind of deception going on and I enjoyed trying to figure it out. The ending was very twisty turny and changed course on the outcome a few times. I completely understood how out of sorts Jessica was feeling during it all, it was well written and thought out. My only complaint on the ending was that it was just so long. We approached the end game scenario with 50 pages left to go. It seemed to just drag on and on and I found myself skimming a bit to get there quicker.