Title: The Girl He Used to Know
Author: Tracey Garvis Graves
Number of Pages: 291
People who know me know it’s very unusual for me to like a romance- it’s just not my genre. Stories about people falling in love and crushing on each other bore me- it’s not something I can relate to and it’s usually very cliché and corny. That said, I actually really liked The Girl He Used to Know!
I was interested in reading it because one of the main characters is on the autistic spectrum and I thought the author did a great job of writing about living with this condition. The female lead (Annika Rose)’s Asperger’s Syndrome is wonderfully incorporated into the story. We never forget about her social challenges but they don’t define her.
Annika Rose is a shy loner who loves playing chess and being around animals. She’s going to college and her mom recruits her roommate to help keep an eye on her, because social situations are really hard for her and she was horribly bullied in public school. When Annika meets Jonathan, he quickly falls for her sweetness and her fierce intelligence. They become a couple but a sudden tragedy causes their relationship to fall apart.
Years later, Annika is a librarian and she runs into Jonathan again. They rekindle their romance but the wounds of their past break-up are still painful. As you might be able to guess from the title, this book is mainly about Annika. I wish I had gotten to know Jonathan better outside of their relationship but he wasn’t as well-developed as I would have hoped. Sometimes Annika feels a little too perfect- naturally she’s gorgeous, and Jonathan probably wouldn’t have found her quirkiness so endearing if she had been more on the plain-looking side.
I enjoyed her character because some aspects of her were very relatable. I also have social anxiety and I’ve been told in the past I have absolutely no filter, and I sometimes take a lot of naps to deal with depression and being overwhelmed. It was those kinds of details that made me feel like the author understood the character very well.
I also love how Annika goes out of her comfort zone and does things that feel almost impossible for her in order to be there for Jonathan. It’s exactly how difficult ‘normal’ things are for her that make these scenes touching. This book covers some difficult subjects including miscarriage, abusive relationships, and the devastation the terrorist attacks on 9/11 caused but overall it’s a positive story about love prevailing against all odds. Annika and Jonathan’s relationship is mutually supportive and realistically flawed, making them two characters who you’ll absolutely root for.