If he had been with me, he wouldn't have died.
Throughout their whole childhood, Finn and Autumn were inseparable—they finished each other's sentences, they knew just what to say when the other person was hurting. But one incident in middle school puts them in separate social worlds come high school, and Autumn has been happily dating James for the last 2 years. But she's always wondered what if...
The night she's about to get the answer is also one of terrible tragedy. (from GoodReads)
Laura Nowlin has created a captivating story, which is surprising because the premise of the book is so simple. Basically, the book is about the unusual relationship between Finn and Autumn. Their mothers have been best friends since they were young and the two families live next door to each other. They eat dinner together frequently and celebrate holidays as one family. This dynamic becomes unusual when Finn is a popular kid and Autumn is in the "outcast" clique. They don't talk in school but are around each other a lot, much to the chagrin of their respective groups.
If He Had Been With Me follows Autumn throughout her entire high school career, which sounds tedious but the novel had wonderful pacing. Even reading about class and prom and relationship drama was so interesting because it all revolves around the enigmatic Finn. There are even flashbacks perfectly placed in the story to enhance the narrative and add depth to Finn and Autumn's relationship. You're practically rooting for them to get together even though both are in other relationships. The tension jumps off the page when Finn and Autumn are in a scene together and those were my favorite parts to read.
Laura Nowlin has really got the teenage voice down pat. Autumn and her friends would say and do things that were similar to me and my friends. There were also some genuinely funny lines that made me laugh. If you read What We Keep is Not Always What Will Stay, this novel reminds me a lot of that book, with a quirky narrator and great writing. However, even with the lightheartedness that is present throughout most of the novel, the reader knows from the first chapter that something tragic happens to Finn. Though it's easy to forget this fact when you're reading about Christmas and touring colleges. I tried to put it out of my mind but it still hits you at the end. If He Had Been With Me confirms Autumn's assertion that sometimes sadness is beautiful.
With that said, I really enjoyed this novel and would recommend it to fans of contemporary fiction and romance or if you're looking for a deep read with a rich narrative.
Rating: 9 out of 10.
FTC: borrowed from the library.
2013/Sourcebooks Fire/330 pages.