In The Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garvis Graves, Going to the University of Illinois for a degree in English was a pretty scary thing for Annika Rose to navigate. She’s not exactly shy. She’s just never understood all the rules of how to behave socially–which makes even dating something of a nightmare. But with the help (read: insistence) of her roommate Janice, Annika begins to branch out and not only volunteers at the local animal refuge but she also joins the chess club. A game she loves that also calms her mind. And that’s where she meets Jonathan. The man who would change and improve Annika’s life in ways she would never have imagined possible.
‘All my life, I’d been waiting for someone I could be myself with. It had never occurred to me that I could be that person for someone else.’
Jonathan felt a connection right away with Annika. Beautiful, smart and wonderfully sincere with her feelings, she brightened his days at a time when everything seemed to be in question. As their relationship became something much bigger than a simple fling, Jonathan and Annika could see a future together beyond college. But circumstances tested their romance and they sadly went their separate ways for a decade. When a chance encounter brings them back together with Jonathan being divorced but ready to move forward, and Annika lonely but having achieved her dream career of being a librarian, it seems fate will again try to rip them apart. But are they strong enough–individually and as a couple–this time to overcome their struggles?
“It’s because of you that I know what it feels like to be loved and accepted.” Her eyes fill with tears and she blinks them away.
“Maybe I’m the one who needs to take it slow this time.”
“I can do slow, Jonathan. I’ll wait for you, the way you always waited for me.”
This. Book. Oh my goodness, the feels I had for this incredible couple and their epic romance. Tracey Garvis Graves always brings her A game but she truly did an outstanding job with The Girl He Used to Know.
‘Such is my desire to replace the memories of the girl he used to know with the woman I’ve become.’
There are some pretty heavy things that happen to our main characters that might be tough for some people to read about and are potential triggers. So if you want to know ahead of time, view the them here: View Spoiler » bullying of person with autism, miscarriage, suicidal thoughts, 9/11 terrorist attack « Hide Spoiler
It’s going to be really difficult to not give too much away in this review so I’ll do my best to keep it basic. First off, if you haven’t read anything by Tracey Garvis Graves then this would be a fantastic way to begin. I recommend ALL of her work but there was something so relatable about Annika (rhymes with Monica) and Jonathan’s relationship that I think it will resonate easily with readers.
This is a dual timeline story, set in 1991 when Jonathan and Annika met in college, then ten years later in 2001 when they rekindled their romance. I loved seeing the difference between how they acted/reacted to some of the same issues they faced down in their early twenties vs in their early thirties. Their personal growth was evident in that decade apart and I think it made all the difference in how they were able to move forward emotionally after that time.
Annika might not have been a typical romance heroine, but I simply adored her. She was exactly who she presented herself as and didn’t play games. She was very intelligent and caring in her own way–she was a huge animal lover and that made me like her even more–but she didn’t pick up on social cues. So Annika was always struggling emotionally and socially. She did learn how to read people better through help with her college roommate, a few others along the way, and even from Jonathan.
Speaking of Jonathan, what a great guy he was. Good-natured, intelligent, kind and caring. Of course just like Annika, he wasn’t without faults. But he turned out to be just who she needed at different times in her life–as she was for him when it really counted. Jonathan’s struggles were more towards the latter part of the book, and I can’t give away the shocking details I didn’t see coming until right before the “event” happened. But suffice it to say Annika stepped up for him in a huge way and gave him the love and support he wanted from her all along. It was a sweet, emotional–although rather abrupt–ending, and I could have used more time with Jonathan and Annika, to see where their lives took them as I loved them together so much.
Poignant, heartfelt, filled with joy and heartbreak, The Girl He Used to Know is a novel I will treasure for years to come. It showed the power of friendship and love, and will surely touch the heart of every reader.
Publication: April 2nd 2019 | 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.