For the first time ever, I decided to set myself a Goodreads challenge. My goal for this year’s Reading Challenge is a total of 50 books. I think, more than likely, I’ll read more but – considering the fact I read non-stop for three years for my degree – I thought 50 was a good number to ease myself back in. I’ll put a list of what I’ve read so far at the bottom of this post, if you’re interested in my thoughts on these books (or just after some inspiration on what to read next), but my most recent read (in fact I finished it yesterday!) was The Girl He Used To Know by Tracey Garvis Graves.
This book, or Garvis Graves for that matter, wasn’t on my radar. I came across this book when I was browsing through The Works (though I told myself I was only there to browse, I came home with three books – oops!) and the cover alone made me want to buy it. I think, as much as we don’t like to admit it, sometimes we buy books purely because we think they’ll look pretty on the shelf. I did exactly that with this book but, when I actually picked it up and started to read, I realised that there was much more to it than the pretty cover (you know how the expression goes).
Annika Rose likes being alone. She feels lost in social situations, saying the wrong things, 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…
I had no idea what to expect with this book. All I had was the sweet, pink cover with a heart on the front and the very minimalist blurb on the back. This would be the story of Annika Rose and her reunion with Jonathan, how they fit into each other’s lives in the past and how they try to fit again in the present.
Like I said with Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid, I’m used to protagonists with perfect hair and amazing lives but – like with that book – it was refreshing to see that this wasn’t exactly the case with the characters in The Girl He Used To Know.
Yes, Annika is beautiful (and a lot of the book from Jonathan’s perspective seems to be focused on that) but Annika doesn’t slide effortlessly in to the super popular, friendly, everybody’s favourite stereotype that pretty characters seem to fall into. Instead, Graves has given her readers a character that struggles with friendships, her awkwardness and doesn’t know how to act in situations. It’s unfortunately pretty rare that social disorders like autism and so on are represented in books so I liked being able to see a character from that perspective. Though Jonathan was also good-looking, he had moments of insecurity just like Annika.
I liked the relationship between Annika and Jonathan. I’m so used to reading books filled with meet-cute scenarios that it was refreshing to see the relationship between the two main characters begin in the ’90s and then have them go through another love story years later, it almost had me fooled that I was reading someone’s real life story as opposed to that of two fictional characters. I think the relationship was full of sweet, humorous moments but Graves didn’t shy away from the tricky, hard-hitting moments as well. Even though there were a few moments in the book when I found myself questioning the couple, I think it was good to see a more real portrayal of relationships and romance than I’m used to.
I also really liked the friendship between Janice and Annika. I think it was quite easy, when reading this book, to get bogged down by the romantic parts but – honestly – this friendship is just as important. After all, Janice kind of sets the romantic relationship in motion and, as it develops, she’s the one Annika comes to for advice. Though I would’ve liked to have seen a little bit more of her in the book, I’m glad Janice was likeable and provided some humour and relief when the plot otherwise got a bit heavy or – alternatively – a bit too sickly sweet.
Another thing I thought was interesting was how Graves told the story. Not only did she jump from Annika’s point of view to Jonathan’s (or vice versa), but she also jumped from 1991 to 2001. I liked seeing how each character portrayed various events and, as well as this, I liked seeing their relationship over the course of the ten years.
The only thing I wasn’t keen on was the ending. Like a lot of people have said, I think the last few chapters in particular feel a bit rushed. I think the “big twist” (I say ‘big twist’, I half saw this coming half completely forgot what time scale we’re dealing with) was an interesting addition to this book but, from the shock of that, the book reeled off and felt like things just kind of ended.
Saying that, this was an intriguing book and I loved the idea of two people falling in love all over again.
Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Alternatively, what are you reading right now? Let’s chat in the comments 😊