Wednesday, June 24, 2020

REVIEW: The Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garvis Graves


This is a hard review to write because I don't really even know how I feel about The Girl He Used to Know.  On the one hand, I like that we have more and more fiction where the main character is on the spectrum and shows a diversity of experiences--some heavier, like Annika's, and some lighter. And I know that I'm not the one to judge if a character is the "right" representation but I have questions. Did Graves have a sensitivity reader? I don't know and it's not clear in the acknowledgments and maybe it doesn't matter to most readers but it matters to me. Because Annika's character seems very defined by this, I can't help but think it's important but as I don't know how Graves came to write this novel, I'll move on.

I like Annika. I like Jonathan--until I didn't...but that, too, is convoluted and spoilery so I'll just say that there are many many reasons why I liked him and a few reasons that I didn't. I like them together and I enjoyed their story. It's a little unconventional, a little flat in places and curious in others, and ultimately nice to see how they got together, broke up, and found each other again.

I'm not sure about the last several chapters. I understand, I think, why Graves would do what she did in those chapters but I still don't know if I felt like it enhanced or detracted from these characters and their story.

Ultimately, even with my questions and uncertainty about what I feel about this novel, I've been thinking about it for days and that definitely says something in this day and age of rapid romance reading consumption.


Annika Rose is an English major at the University of Illinois. Anxious in social situations where she finds most people's behavior confusing, she'd rather be surrounded by the order and discipline of books or the quiet solitude of playing chess.
Jonathan Hoffman joined the chess club and lost his first game—and his heart—to the shy and awkward, yet brilliant and beautiful Annika. He admires her ability to be true to herself, quirks and all, and accepts the challenges involved in pursuing a relationship with her. Jonathan and Annika bring out the best in each other, finding the confidence and courage within themselves to plan a future together. What follows is a tumultuous yet tender love affair that withstands everything except the unforeseen tragedy that forces them apart, shattering their connection and leaving them to navigate their lives alone.
Now, a decade later, fate reunites Annika and Jonathan in Chicago. She's living the life she wanted as a librarian. He's a Wall Street whiz, recovering from a divorce and seeking a fresh start. The attraction and strong feelings they once shared are instantly rekindled, but until they confront the fears and anxieties that drove them apart, their second chance will end before it truly begins.

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