Lessons from The Girl He Used to Know
This post was sponsored by SheSpeaks. All Opinions are my own.
If you’re new around here, you might not know that I got my Bachelor’s degree in English Education and spent almost two full years teaching High School English. Even though I made the very deliberate decision to move on from public education and transition into HR/Recruiting and now to marketing, I have a lot of fond memories of my teaching days. Don’t get me wrong – I absolutely adored and loved my students (and keep in touch with several still.) But I honestly was not cut out for the hours and energy required for a public school teacher. Leaving the teaching career field after spending five years working towards my degree was very hard, but that’s also how this blog was born! So, it all worked out in the end, right?
Anyway, the reason why I bring this all up is that I used to read. I used to read a ton. That’s why I wanted to teach English to begin with; to help my students discover the power and transformative ability that books had. After I stopped teaching though, the constant need to read books and stay on top of new releases faded away, and I found myself reading articles on SEO and social media strategies. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a good reading habit, and I’ve been working hard at bringing back reading into my life in 2019. I’m 10X happier and feel like I’m living a more vibrant life when I’ve spent time completely unplugged and immersed in a book, and I’m trying my best to make it a daily habit again.
I was so excited to get an advanced copy of The Girl He Used to Know by New York Times Bestselling Author Tracey Garvis Graves right before my trip to California a couple of weeks ago. I would finally have some time to be completely unplugged and undistracted in the plane and be able to read a little bit. I started the book on the flight home from California and finished it before I went to bed that night. I could not put it down. It was one of the most beautiful books I’ve read in a very, very long time, filled with beautiful and strong characters who I felt were real people by the time I finished it.
Here’s a brief synopsis of The Girl He Used to Know:
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.
Annika’s character is so beautifully written. She’s complex and totally and completely different from me as a person but similar in so many ways. It doesn’t take long to pick up that she’s neurodiverse, and I loved how easily I could relate to certain things about her character, even though I typically don’t think I can relate to neurodiverse people in my own world. This book not only helped me understand how hard it might be for a neurodiverse person to navigate our world but allowed me to find ways to connect with them in my own life.
A few other lessons I walked away with after reading this book:
Never underestimate the power of being a real friend – I literally teared up when I was introduced to Annika’s college roommate, Janice and “watched” as she became a fierce protector and loyal friend to someone who was definitely a bit difficult to understand. She didn’t let Annika’s personal preferences get in the way of taking care of her and helping her navigate the college world. I was silently cheering for her as she saved Annika from a potentially dangerous situation and found myself wanting to be a friend like Janice to my friends in real life. While I’ve always prided myself in being a good friend, I definitely think I could do more to be like Janice and be less judgmental and more accepting to those in my life who I might not always understand.
It’s okay to grow & evolve, but still stay the same – This is one of the biggest themes in the book and I absolutely loved the message. In this day and age, we’re constantly bombarded with”personal development” and “ways to change your habits” etc. etc. The message about self-improvement often gets lost and turns into “You have to change if you want to be accepted.” I loved the way this book balanced Annika’s journey to becoming a stronger, more capable version of herself, but still showed that she never lost the essential parts of herself along the way. It’s a very important message that all women in this day and age need to hear more frequently.
Don’t take the people you love for granted – I won’t give away any spoilers, but there’s a huge twist towards the end of the book that I did not see coming. I don’t know why I didn’t recognize what was coming (there are a few subtle hints) but when it came, I felt like I had been punched in the gut and literally had to catch my breath before reading on. It was so, so impactful and so, so emotional. I could feel all of the emotions that Annika felt as she navigated this situation and it really taught me how important it is to never take the people you love for granted. Ever.
Friends. This book is an absolute MUST read this year. (And I’m not just saying that because I got an early copy.) I honestly have been recommending it to everyone I’ve encountered over the last week. I think about the characters and story frequently and find myself thinking about Annika and the strength and resilience she showed in her story.
The Girl He Used to Know was released on April 2nd and is now available in ALL kinds of places to purchase. ALL kinds of places to purchase. You can find out where you can pick it up here (and those of you with audible memberships, it’s available on audible as well!)
I’d love to know what books you’ve been reading lately and if this one is a book you’d consider adding to your summer reading list!