The Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garvis Graves
Tracey Garvis Graves won me over years ago with her debut novel On the Island and even with my high expectations/the buzz around this novel, this story blew me away.
We meet our protagonists Annika and Jonathan in present day but quickly dive back to when they first met at The University of Illinois in chess club, 10 years earlier. Annika is a senior at the time but has spent four years learning to navigate the college world. This is even more difficult for her than most, as she’s nervous in social situations, very sensitive to loud sounds and prefers to curl up in bed with a book or sit quietly playing a game of chess. When she is paired with Jonathan, and she beats him in their first match, he is totally intrigued by this unique girl. The story transitions smoothly from the beginning of their love story to their unexpected rekindling in present day.
The Girl He Used to Know is such a realistic story of love and all of the true challenges that come along with it. It’s a romance with all the butterflies and sweet depictions of a first love. It’s often funny with lots of great commentary from Annika. However, life almost never goes the way we expect, and this story acknowledges that truth and paints a beautiful, often emotional, often triumphant picture. I highly recommend and I would say it’s my favorite book I’ve read this year.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
It’s not often I find a story like this. One where in just three sittings, I feel like my view of the world has changed a little and I’ve met characters (in this case based on real, heroic people) that will stay with me for a very long time.
This is a story that I truly think everyone needs to read. The Holocaust and WWII are topics that have been covered in countless Historical Fiction novels, but each story carries with it a unique perspective, a piece of history of a time that we must ensure we never forget, for fear of something this atrocious happening again.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz is the story of Lale, a Slovakian/Jewish man who volunteered to go to a camp to save his family, when the Germans took over Slovakia. Little did he know he was headed to what would become the most horrific concentration camp, Auschwitz. Lale was a survivor from the beginning, working to help everyone around him in any way he could. He knew he needed to stand out, and as an educated man who knew multiple languages, it didn’t take long for the Germans to notice him. In a stroke of luck, with the help of a good friend, Lale manages to secure a position as the main Tattooist for the camp, the one who numbered each new arrival to the camp. While this may sound awful, he knew it was his only hope. He soon has reason to hope, when he meets the woman he hopes to be with forever, if they ever leave the hell they are in.
I was nervous to read this story because I thought it would be terribly sad and hard to get through. It was certainly sad, but it was also filled with hope and so much love between these people who went through one of the darkest moments in history together. It was incredible.
My name is Kylie Sebert. I'm a native of Spirit Lake and currently living in the literary hub of Portland, Maine! I have a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, with an emphasis in fiction, and now hope to begin a novel writing career. You can find me on Instagram and Facebook as @notsotwentysomething. As with most writers, one of my passions is discovering and reading great books. I hope my reviews will spark an excitement for literature in people around the Great Lakes area!