Book Review: The Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garvis Graves (ARC)

The Girl He Used to Know

Author: Tracey Garvis Graves

Publication Date: 02 Apr 2019

Genre: Adult Fiction, Romance

Pages: 304

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

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.

When this ARC showed up in the mail, I completely forgot that I had even signed up to be a part of the campaign. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure that the campaign was legitimate because it said that there were 1000 ARCs available, which was utterly mind-blowing. I am so incredibly happy to have had the pleasure of being introduced to this phenomenal book that I don’t think that I would picked up under normal circumstances.

Before I even say anything else, I am going to start by saying I LOVED this book. I read this book in one sitting. This book has officially gone into the “I will recommend this to anyone who will listen to me” repertoire.

The book opens with Annika bumping into her college boyfriend Jonathan at the grocery store 10 years after they broke up. Annika wants to flee the situation, but she chooses to stay rooted and speak to Jonathan. Both are a bit rattled seeing each other after so long and it is clear by Jonathan’s body language that he is hesitant to embrace Annika. Prior to Jonathan leaving the store, Annika asks Jonathan if he’d like to get together some time, which he ultimately agrees to. Annika wants another chance with Jonathan to start fresh and right the wrongs from their past.

‘But I will call. I’ll apologize. Ask him if we can start over. “Clean slate,” I’ll say. Such is my desire to replace the memories of the girl he used to know with the woman I’ve become’

While at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Annika is only ever at the Wildlife Medical Clinic (she had an extreme passion for animal care), the library, or the student union playing chess. Annika is an exceptional chess player since she’d been playing with her dad since she was a kid. Her roommate Janice ultimately coerced Annika into joining the chess team in order to get Annika to be more social and assimilate into collegiate life. Jonathan ultimately joins the chess club after immediately being attracted to Annika not only for her looks but her quirks as well.

I really enjoyed that this story is told from both Annika’s and Jonathan’s first-person POV because it becomes more evident throughout the book how difficult their relationship was on each of them. Annika is on the autism spectrum, which is addressed throughout the book. This causes a whole slew of complications for both Annika and Jonathan since this is uncharted territory for the both of them.

I don’t want to give any specifics of the plot, but I think that the author does a heartbreakingly beautiful job of showing the difficulties and also the joys that Annika’s unique character brings to the story. Annika is brutally honest and has absolutely no filter. She knows that society has told her that she is attractive, but she doesn’t grasp its importance. This story isn’t just about second chances. It’s also about letting go of someone you love in order to understand how to love yourself first.

Thank you to St. Martin’s Press and @SmartBitches for the advanced copy. This did not influence my review. All opinions are my own.

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Have you read The Girl He Used to Know? Is it on your TBR?

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