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!


  1. I am in a library queue for this book and can't wait to read it! I didn't realize it was a romance ... fine by me. Thanks for the review!