What if you had a second chance at first love?
Annika Rose likes being alone.
She feels lost in social situations, saying the wrong thing or acting the wrong way. She just can’t read people. She prefers the quiet solitude of books or playing chess to being around others. Apart from Jonathan. She liked being around him, but she hasn’t seen him for ten years. Until now that is. And she’s not sure he’ll want to see her again after what happened all those years ago.
Annika Rose likes being alone.
Except that, actually, she doesn’t like being alone at all.
I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for The Girl He Used To Know by Tracey Garvis Graves. My thanks Tracy Fenton of Compulsive Readers for inviting me on to the tour and to Orion for my copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.
This book totally took me by surprise to be honest. I thought it was just going to be a straight forward romance, and it certainly started out that way, and then it became one of those books that just grabs your heart and compels you to keep reading. I ended up staying up until three a.m. to finish it and I don’t regret it for a second.
The main character is Annika, a girl who isn’t quite like everyone else. She has always been branded weird and has severe social anxiety, so has led a sheltered life without friends until she goes to college, where she finally finds a couple of people who understand her and help her come out of her shell.
One of these is Jonathan, a boy she meets at chess club, who finally seems to be someone who can accept her and love her for who she really is. But then, something happens that sends their relationship off the rails and they part and don’t see each other for ten years until fate brings them together again and they try and find out if they can work through what went wrong all those years ago.
This is a split timeline book, as we follow events while Annika and Jonathan are at college, and then when they meet again ten years later, so we can see how they have both changed over that time. The structure works really well and was very clear and easy to follow. I connected with Annika’s character immediately, even though she is someone who walks her own path. She is someone you can’t help wanting to protect, and for things to go right for her because she is such a sweet and gentle person, who is just out of step with the rest of the world. Jonathan was a bit more of a problematic character as, although he was good to Annika and she loved him, I had glimpses of times when he needed things from her that weren’t quite true to herself. However, it was obvious that the relationship has certain unique difficulties for him, so I guess that was only to be expected and was kind of the point, showing the challenges of being in love with someone that doesn’t quite fit in to the definition of the norm.
The plot of this book is very gentle most of the way through, which was not a problem, I loved it for what it was and would have been happy if it had carried on that way to the end. The writer is very accomplished and her portrayal of two people and their relationship was enough for me to enjoy the book just for that. However, something then happens that jolted me out of my complacency and took the book to a totally new place and a different level that I was not expecting. The last 20% of the book had an extremely dramatic effect on me, hence the late night reading binge, and elevated the reading experience to something quite out of the ordinary. It is difficult for me to say more without giving away any spoilers, you will have to read it for yourself. I read another review of this book that said this book contained no surprises. I can honestly say this absolutely was not true for me (maybe other readers are more astute), the ending was like a punch to the gut.
This book deals with some sensitive issues and some things which some people may find problematic or upsetting. I applaud the writer’s bravery in tackling them, I think these are things that need to be written about and we, as readers, should not shy away from reading books with tough themes. These things are the truth of human experience and by engaging with them, we can only gain insight into and empathy for our fellow man. I have to say that some of the issues discussed are not ones with which I have had personal experience so, although they felt authentic and sensitively handled to me, I am not really in a position to attest to whether this is actually the case.
I thought this book was quite stunning. It stood out as something very different and brilliantly written. I was left feeling like the time I invested in this book had been repaid tenfold by the reading experience and I am excited to find a new writer that I can’t wait to read more of. Please read it.
The Girls He Used To Know is out now in ebook and in August in paperback and you can buy a copy here.
To follow the rest of the tour, please check out the other blogs taking part as detailed below:
About the Author
Tracey Garvis Graves is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author of contemporary fiction. Her debut novel, On the Island, spent 9 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, has been translated into thirty-one languages, and is in development with MGM and Temple Hill Productions for a feature film. She is also the author of Uncharted, Covet, Every Time I Think of You, Cherish, Heart-Shaped Hack, White-Hot Hack, and The Girl He Used to Know. She is hard at work on her next book.
Connect with Tracey:
Facebook: T Garvis Graves