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.
The Girl He Used to Know is described as similar to Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine as both dive deep into the intimate life of people dealing with mental health issues and autism. I disliked Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, but enjoyed The Girl He Used to Know.
The Girl He Used to Know is told from two perspectives, Annika and Jonathan, and from two different timelines. Graves accomplishes a rather difficult feat of showing character development by highlighting the differences in the narrative rather than having the reader directly experience these developments. The Annika in 1991 is different from the Annika in 2001.
What makes The Girl He Used to Know stand out is Annika. She’s genuine in every sense of the word. There isn’t a moment that goes by that Annika is anything but herself. I could easily read another novel from her perspective.
On the other hand, Jonathan, her love interest, sucks. Jonathan reads as low key selfish and manipulative. He was not a character I was rooting for, especially a character I wanted to be with Annika.
The reason I rated this novel three stars instead of four is because the last 50 or so pages. Each chapter begins with the date and location, so the climax of the novel could be seen a mile away. There are two deeply distressing incidences that happen and the inclusive of both makes the story feel contrived rather than organic and is slightly manipulative on the author’s part. Had Graves chosen to focus solely on the first incident, the story would have been one that could resonate more deeply with readers since it allows for the author to dive deep into those emotions and the consequences. Instead, The Girl He Used to Know is only surface level in terms of the emotions involved in those incidences. Sorry for being so vague, but spoilers!
Overall, The Girl He Used to Know is a quick read I would recommend to those who loved Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.
***I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.