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From the publisher:
New York Times bestselling author of On the Island, Tracey Garvis Graves, presents the compelling, hopelessly romantic novel of unconditional love.
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.
I had heard about this book a while back, and I’m sorry to say it got lost on my overstuffed Kindle bookshelves. Luckily, a friend read it and told me to, and I’m so happy she did.
When I started reading, my first thought was is autism in romance a new trend? Helen Hoang owns it (The Kiss Quotient, The Bride Test), but Graves does an admirable job with it here. Especially as the word autism isn’t mentioned until almost the end of the book. As I recently learned (at the Florida Library Association Annual conference,) many people who are on the ASD spectrum do not self-identify that way. Therefore they do not get the help they need and that is very much the case here.
While Annika is certainly high functioning, I think it is apparent to the reader that she is on the spectrum. On the other hand, she just thinks of herself as weird. But Jonathan makes her feel special and safe.
The story moves back and forth between both characters and two different timelines, ten years apart; when they first met in college, then ten years later. It is easy to follow and easy to differentiate between all that, and the story moves quickly and dramatically. I loved these characters, all of them, even the secondary characters, because they are all so well drawn and feel like people I could run into tomorrow. That says a lot about the mad writing skills Graves displays here. But I especially loved the story of how these people move through life and toward one another.
My only complaint about this book was the ending; it was rather abrupt. I needed another page or two with a more defined resolution. I usually hate it when books tie up every loose end in a bow, it never seems real that way but this ending was too far in the other direction for me. But that is a minor quibble. I loved this book and I truly hope it finds a lot of readers.
6/19 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™
THE GIRL HE USED TO KNOW by Tracey Garvis Graves. St. Martin’s Press (April 2, 2019). ISBN 978-1250200358. 304p.