Author: Laura Nowlin
Release Date: April 1st, 2013
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Genre(s): YA Contemporary
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.
MAJOR SPOILERS- READERS BEWARE
If He Had Been with Me is a poignant novel about the land of what ifs. What if Autumn had never left Finny? What if Finny hadn’t kissed Autumn? There’s so many different what ifs, but it all came down to the biggest what if: What if Finny had stayed with Autumn that night?
The thing I love so much about this book is the author’s ability to understand readers. The way she describes that sensation of reading a book for a first time, or how she talks about the impossible dreams we had as children- I have yet to meet another writer who understood that so well. Her writing style is also really pretty, and she gives Autumn a somewhat mature voice- which I thought was fitting.
All the characters in this book are so incredibly deep. From Finny to Jamie to Angie- nobody’s a cardboard cutout. Every one of them had a story, no matter how minor they seemed. I love how Autumn knew she was odd- and she embraces it full heartedly. She’s different-wearing tiaras every day, for example- and she didn’t care. She isn’t sassy or loudly witty, but her quiet observations of the world, herself, and the people around her and her somewhat dry sense of humor shine through the entire novel. I also love how she knew she was pretty- but not in a vain, arrogant way. She loves who she is and what she looks like. It’s very refreshing to see a girl who embraces her beauty, instead of putting herself down and having others telling her over and over again she is pretty.
This book really didn’t have a plot: it’s heart driven. The characters run the show in the entire book, not the plot. It might turn some people off that the story isn’t a traditional problem-solution, but I actually really like it. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book that’s heart driven (probably Hattie Big Sky was the last one).
Finny and Autumn’s relationship need their own paragraph altogether. Finny is by no means perfect (that was what made him so appealing actually ;)), but he’s one of the sweetest guys I’ve ever met. He’s such a gentleman-something that’s a bit hard to find in YA novels these days. They are extremely in love with each other (Autumn albeit reluctant to admit it at first), but it’s clear, that above all, they’re friends. And that’s what I really think the heart of the book is: their friendship and all the years they spent together (even if it didn’t seem enough). Though their relationship as girlfriend and boyfriend was short-lived- and Autumn is regretful that they didn’t have more time- when I finished the book, I was oddly satisfied because Finny would live on through their child, and Autumn would have all those memories of their friendship. It doesn’t seem enough, but it would do. And Autumn would be able to live with that.
If He Had Been With Me is a story full of regrets- but also of hope. Some people might not see it, but I really think it is. Finny will live on, through Autumn and his child, and as we all know, things will turn out the way they were always meant to be. ;)
Rating : 4.5 out of 5