Blogmas Book Review: The Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garvis Graves

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GoodReads Summary:
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.
The Girl He Used to KnowReview:
I’m going to start off by saying that I read this book because it was one of the GoodReads Choice Awards final nominees and it was available from my library. I wish I never read this because it was…not good. I haven’t decided if I’m going to include spoilers in this review or not but proceed with caution in case I do. I waited a bit to write this review because while I enjoyed the story while I was reading it after I finished it just didn’t sit well with me. The more I thought about it, the more it made me uncomfortable.
This is a story about Annika, who is autistic, and her college sweetheart. The writing flashes back and forth between the past and the present, giving us the story of how they met and fell in love, and then also how they reconnected. I liked this method of storytelling using the past and present to develop the characters. I just, didn’t like them?
Annika is described as delicate, childlike, and too often treated like a child. I really didn’t like that because, despite her autism, she’s still a capable adult. I didn’t like her being infantilized in the way she was. It might have been okay, but the author answered a GoodReads question saying she does not have any friends or family that are on the autism spectrum so everything she wrote was from research. This is clear because it almost seems as if she went down the checklist of traits.
Jonathan was nothing special. He was a guy that happened not to be a complete piece of shit. I know Annika experienced some of the more unpleasant men in the world, but Jonathan was just a decent guy. I mostly liked him, but all around just didn’t care.
I also didn’t really care for the event that broke them up. I feel like it may have been used as a plot device which is not okay to me. I cannot speak to the accuracy of Annika’s experience because it’s not something I’ve gone through. I just have to say that it left a bad taste in my mouth.
Finally, the ending. This is going to be where I get into spoilers. So, if anything above had somehow made you want to read this book, stop reading this review so the ending is not spoiled. It came out of nowhere, though I should have seen it because of the dates that head the chapters. Jonathan and Annika have a fight about how she runs when faced with problems, which is true, but they work it out and she agrees to stop running when things are hard and to fight for him. That’s great, I liked this exchange. But I did not at all like the situation the author set up for Annika to prove that she would fight for him. It’s September 11th and Annika is home taking a mental health day. She’s watching the news and sees the first plane it the World Trade Center. It just so happens that Jonathan is in the South Tower for a meeting. She calls him and tells him to get the hell out now and explains what happened. The towers fall and Annika does not hear from him. She puts aside her fear of driving, rents a car, and drives from Chicago to New Jersey to meet her best friend. They scour the city in search of Jonathan. Eventually finding him as a John Doe in the hospital. Great, awesome, she showed shell fight for him and there’s a happily ever after. But using one of this country’s worst days in the history of this country? NOT OKAY. I mostly liked this book up until this point. It was shocking and I almost couldn’t believe what I was reading. The author could have come up with countless other situations for Annika to prove that she was willing to fight for Jonathan and wasn’t going to run away when things were hard. Instead, she chose to use one of the worst days in America’s history as a plot point. Her editors thought this was okay? I’m blown away by the number of people this went through that all somehow thought this was acceptable.
Okay, now that I have ranted about this book. I’m going to leave you with some suggestions that I think are much better for you to spend your time on than this book. If you’re looking for books with autism representations try reading The Kiss Quotient or The Bride Test by Helen Hoang, both were very good. If you’re looking for a well written and well-handled story about 9/11 try reading Hope and Other Punchlines by Julie Buxbaum. That’s all I’ve got for you today folks. Thanks for coming to my rant review.

Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.

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