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

The Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garvis Graves
Publisher: St. Martin's Press (April 2, 2019)
Description from the publisher:
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.

To be honest, I was initially drawn into the description of this story because I, too, attended the University of Illinois in the early 90s and lived in the city of Chicago after graduating. Although, save for the mention of a few establishments (Kams most notably), this wasn't a walk down memory lane! Thankfully, it didn't need to be in order for me to enjoy Annika's story. 
Romance isn't my go-to genre, but I enjoy the occasional book that seems to rise to the surface as something a little different, something with a little bit more going on. The last book that seemed to fit the bill was The Kiss Quotient and, funny enough, it has similar themes about a woman on the autism spectrum finding love and finding her place in the world. These disorders were definitely not widely know about back in the 90s, and I felt as if the journey Annika takes in figuring out what makes her unique rang true. 
This is the first novel by Graves that I've read and I thought that she imbued the characters with authenticity and heart. The romance was tender and sweet, sometimes a tad racy. But I especially loved the relationship between Annika and her best friend Janice. In fact, I think I would have liked more interaction between the two, or Annika and her parents. There was a lot to unpack there, yet we get the briefest glimpses into her childhood. The narrative is set in alternating timelines, 1991 and 2001, and didn't leave much room for what happened prior or between those years, which I think would have enhanced the story. Though it made for a fast paced read that I finished in two sittings. The last few chapters of the book flew by (maybe too fast?) and were nail-bitingly tense.
If you are a romance fan or not, I definitely give my endorsement to this novel. I am now intrigued by Graves other work and noticed that her bestseller On the Island is in development to become a film. Looks like it could make for a good summer read...
Thank you so much to St. Martin's Press for the complimentary copy in exchange for my honest review!


Books I Read in February

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
This novel had been sitting on my shelves for so long and I finally got the impetus to read it as part of an Instagram buddy read with Read Fine Print, and I'm so very glad I did. Rules of Civility is such a great read and I had every intention of jumping into Towles latest right away. Alas, the description doesn't really scream CAPTIVATING: 500 pages mainly set in one hotel in early 1900s Russia. And yet... If you love witty and endearing, this book has those qualities in spades. I laughed and read passages aloud to my husband constantly. To wit:
"Surely, the span of time between the placing of an order and the arrival of appetizers is one of the most perilous in all human interaction. What young lovers have not found themselves at this juncture in a silence so sudden, so seemingly insurmountable that it threatens to cast doubt upon their chemistry as a couple? What husband and wife have not found themselves suddenly unnerved by the fear that they might not ever have something urgent, impassioned, or surprising to say to each other again? So it is with good reason that most of us meet this dangerous interstice with a sense of foreboding."
The count is a character for the ages and completely makes this book. There were a few instances where I got a little restless with passages that felt as if they were lifted from a textbook. But the story of Rostov's relationships and how they unfold into a bittersweet and nail-biting conclusion absolutely stole my heart. 

Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend
I've been meaning to get back to reading some middle grade fiction and the buzz around the Nevermoor series had me intrigued. This was an entirely engaging story with elements of many favorite fantasy reads, but still felt refreshingly new. Morrigan Crow is a heroine I loved rooting for and I'm definitely hooked for the remaining books!

Calypso by David Sedaris
It has been many years since I've read a Sedaris book, and how I missed him! I must admit that I did try Theft by Finding Diaries and ended up abandoning it, as if felt so scattered and, honestly, not that funny. Not the case with Calypso. This is peak Sedaris that had me breathless with laughter and heartache for the realities he faced about his family troubles. I can't recommend it enough, especially on audio - which should really be a requirement for all of his books.

A Heart in a Body in the World by Deb Caletti
I've already blasted this on my social media feeds, but it bears repeating. Stop what you are doing, and put this YA masterpiece on your TBR. I felt a little thrill that I was able to grab it from my local library branch the day after it was named a Printz honor book. I finished it yesterday, and it blew me away. I haven’t cried reading a book in a long time, but this one was so powerful and moving. I am definitely getting a copy to share with my daughter, and probably my son too, when they are a little older (maybe 13 or 14). It is a all-too-familiar look at how young girls carry so much on their shoulders, and the way boys can be wonderful allies but also so very toxic. I am also partial to a book about long distance running, gun reform, and beautiful scenes set in my two homes: Seattle and Chicago. It’s like it was made for me, but I think it’s required reading for EVERYONE.
“She closes her eyes now. Just for a second, she imagines it – letting go. Handing heavy stuff back to the people it belongs to. When she does, she gets the most peaceful feeling, as if there’s a cool and reassuring hand on her forehead. She is safe and OK and the storm is out there somewhere, but not here.”

A Woman Is No Man by Etaf Rum
Full review here!

Josh and Hazel's Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren
After a few heavy reads, I grabbed this one off the paperback picks shelf at the library after having enjoyed Love and Other Words by the same authors (yes, they're written by two women). The romance was cute and enjoyable, although absolutely predictable. I didn't love it as much as the former, but it served it's purpose of a fun diversion.