Thursday, April 25, 2019

Book Review: The Girl He Used To Know

I have so much to say about this book, I can't even give you a preamble.

The Girl He Used To Know - Tracey Garvis Graves

Annika (rhymes with Monica) 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.

I received an ARC of this book months ago, like in 2018, to review. I've been in a serious reading funk and I just couldn't read things. Like writer's block but for reading. I don't know. I couldn't muster the energy. So here I am in April and I'm trying to power through my TBR list and I see this. I read her very first book, On The Island, way back in 2012 and I absolutely LOVED IT. If I'm looking for a book to take me away, that has always been my go-to. I've read some other books by this author and some were good, some weren't, so I had no idea where this would fall. 

You guys? This is a 5 star read. You know I'm stingy with my stars and I'm telling you right now this book earned every damn one. I feel like I'm not even going to do this book justice, but I'll try.

So this is the story (mostly) of Annika as she navigates college and young womanhood and it's not necessarily easy because it's very clear to you as the reader that she has to be somewhere on the autism spectrum. It's not mentioned for almost the entire book, but for good reason, it honest would ruin everything before it. As you read this book Annika is at a store, runs into Jonathan, her one (and only) real, steady boyfriend. College sweethearts, assumed to stick together after, but they don't and the book kind of hints that there was a major reason why. It's flashbacks to college and switches from Annika and Jonathan's point of view and done so well I didn't even care. We see Annika's awkwardness as she starts college, joins a club, makes a friend, tries her hand at having a boyfriend, all of it. Throughout though everyone around her kind of suspects something is amiss because she's painfully awkward and struggles in so many areas but when she's with Jonathan he smooths the edges, so to speak. 

Then we have "the incident" and then they are their own adult. But as they gravitate towards each other again, it's wonderful and adorable, and they are the same yet different. She's better/different and he's in awe of the changes she's made knowing she worked so hard at it. Then I'm going to tell you there is a 9/11 tie in and I was just as emotional reading this as I was reading survivor stories years later from the event. The author nailed this and knowing what we know about Annika, you can imagine what that was like for her.

Anyways. I loved this book. I flew through it in two days while sitting in my car outside of my daughter's dance class (five hours total) and I was honestly sad to finish it. I wanted more, I want to know what happens later on with them (I can't even tell you what I want to know because it ruins it for you). I also loved where it ended, too because the abrupt ending almost felt fitting because that's how Annika would have ended it. Annika's awkwardness was actually so sweet and endearing but she's also conscious enough to know it's not the way "normal" people approach things and I just really enjoyed her as a character. The development of these characters was just really great.

I hate recommending a book to a broad audience but honestly? If you had a child on the spectrum, read this book. Yes, it's fiction, but for me it still shows how a "normal" future is possible despite their struggle. I don't even think I'm saying this the way I mean it. I just really loved this book and this is one I'm going to recommend a lot because it was just solid from cover to cover.


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