Having been a fan of Tracey Garvis Graves for some years, I jumped at the offer to review an early copy of The Girl He Used to Know almost a year before publication. But just to refresh my mind on the story, I listened to the audiobook and I ended up giving it another whole star rating. That rarely happens, but when a gifted narrator can bring such a moving story to life the way Fred Berman and Kathleen McInerney did, it’s only fitting. This story alternates between the past (1991) and present (2001), and it also alternates between Annika and Jonathan.
First, let’s begin with Annika in 1991. All her life she felt different from other people. She had a hard time understanding a lot of the things people would normally do. She just felt she was “weird” or “quirky.” In reality, Annika was on the autism spectrum. This is not something she will find out for another year as she was never tested as a child. This definitely made it harder for her to understand all the “social norms” and it really made her doubt herself and her ability to be out on her own at college. Her roommate and best friend was a great help to her though. She understood that Annika was not a typical girl and grew to really care for her. She also introduced her to the college’s chess club, where Annika found an activity that made college life a little easier on her. This is where she meets Jonathan.
Jonathan is a new student and a new chess club member when he meets Annika. She really makes an impression on him and before long, their friendship grows to something really loving. I wish everyone’s first loves were like Jonathan. He was caring, kind, and handsome, but that didn’t mean he was without faults. At times he would get frustrated because Annika wouldn’t act as he thought a normal person would. While that’s sucky, he was quick to hear her out and try to understand how her mind works. Before long this relationship grows to the point where they’re making plans together for after graduation, but something huge happens to Annika and it leaves her emotionally paralyzed for a long time.
Fast forward to 2001 and Annika has really flourished. She has her dream job and her autism isn’t so much a mystery anymore. Now, thanks to a therapist, life isn’t as overwhelming and she has learned different ways to cope with certain situations. Running into Jonathan at a grocery store of all places wasn’t something she was expecting. It definitely throws them both for a loop but something makes her want to reconnect with him. He’s a little more skeptical about it but goes along with it. They soon realize how much they’ve each grown and changed and it gives this second-chance romance some legs.
The ending was unexpected, but it shouldn’t have been if only I had been paying closer attention. And if you find yourself reading those last few chapters expecting the worse… I was there with you! I know some people found it rushed or unexpected but I understand that in the end, it was to show just how capable Annika was now. Tracey Garvis Graves really delivered a moving look into what it’s like to live with autism and the struggles one might have to endure. I definitely recommend this book, maybe in audiobook format even more because I really liked it that way. So go out and get a copy and see for yourself!
The Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garvis Graves
Narrator: Fred Berman, Kathleen McInerney
Published by St. Martin’s
Pub Date: April 2nd 2019
Length: 8 hrs and 10 mins
Format: ARC, Audiobook
Source: Publisher, Scribd
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
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I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
New York Times bestselling author of On the Island, Tracey Garvis Graves, presents the compelling, hopelessly romantic novel of unconditional love.
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.