Updated: Mar 30, 2020
I will admit that I am hesitant to read anything in the contemporary romance genre. Part of creating this blog and writing these reviews is to force myself to branch outside of my reading comfort zone. I tend to gravitate towards thrillers, crime, drama, and suspense. The thought of mushy romance novels makes me want to vomit, but hey, I am being more open minded about this genre and am finding some really great books. The Girl He Used To Know by Tracey Garvis Graves is a beautiful story of two people having a second chance at love. It does not have you "typical" romance characters and that is why I really enjoyed it.
The Girl He Used To Know follows Annika and her relationship with Jonathan. Annika has a hard time reading people and social cues. She prefers solitude and finds group interactions excruciatingly exhausting. She does not have many close friends or people she "clicks" with, until she meets Jonathan. They meet during college, in a chess club, of all places. Jonathan is intrigued by Annika's stunning beauty and her unbashful authenticity. Annika is truly herself, what you see is what you get, and Jonathan is drawn to her. Flash forward ten years, Annika and Jonathan have not seen each other since college, when they had a heartbreaking break up. They both notice that the spark is still there between them and decide to take a second chance at what they used to have.
I absolutely adored these characters. I could tell within the first few chapters that Annika had some autistic tendencies and I loved how she was truly herself, flaws and all. Graves does an amazing job translating the message that we all have our crosses to bare, just some of ours are under the surface and you cannot see them. For Annika, hers were seen by others and she lived her life constantly trying to mold herself to be what society expected from her. I loved how Jonathan loved her for who she was, good, bad, and ugly. That is exactly how love should be. What is that Marilyn Monroe quote, "if you can't handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don't deserve me at my best." I thought of that often as I read their love story. It was realistic and raw. What has turned me off from romance novels in the past are their unrealistic depictions of love and relationships. Graves constructed Annika and Jonathan's characters, while keeping the real world in mind, which I appreciated. They were both relatable and real.
I gave The Girl He Used To Know by Tracey Garvis Graves a ★★★★.5 review and highly recommend it, even if you are not a huge romance fan. Give it a try and I think you will be pleasantly surprised.