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Review: If He Had Been With Me by Laura Nowlin

Saturday, June 1, 2013

If He Had Been With Me

Genre: YA Contemporary
Paperback: 384 Pages
Publication: April 1, 2013 by Sourcebooks Fire


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.

I really, really wanted to fall in love with this novel. It came off to a good start with the beautiful, poetic imagery of the opening scene. It's a dark contemporary, and I have a good dark contemporary. Especially if it makes me cry. Then it takes out out of the opening scene back into the past--all the way back to the beginining.

◆ A copy was provided by Sourcebooks for review ◆

A lot of the backstory is needed to understand Finn and Autumn's relationship. However, I didn't want to go through all of high school with them when I already knew the outcome. (Finn's going to die. It's laid out clearly for us.) It was interesting at first to learn about their childhood, and I was curious about why they stopped hanging out together. Even if they fell into different social spheres in middle and high school, they have a long history of friendship that isn't easily overcome by social barriers. However, the story ends up stagnating and dragging on, and I skimmed much of the latter half of the story looking for answers that didn't come until the end of the novel.

What I'd been hoping to see was more of what happens to Autumn after Finn's death, or at least see their story closer to the time of his death instead of reliving high school with her. It might have been an interesting story, but Autumn is a hard-to-pin-down narrator. Much of the story seems to be summarized, as Autumn doesn't really let us get into her head. She keeps much of the important details about herself, her relationships, and her feelings bottled up within her. Finn is a more open character, and though Autumn is the one narrating the story, it's easier to understand him.

Overall, the beginning and the end are what made the story for me. While there was a lot of potential to the story as a whole, I wasn't able to relate to Autumn enough for the story to click with me, which is important in a story as character driven as this one is. Nevertheless, it is finding a fan-base, and readers who enjoy a contemporary tragic love story may enjoy this one.

Click here to read my author interview with Laura Nowlin

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7 comments on "Review: If He Had Been With Me by Laura Nowlin"
  1. Sorry this wasn't what you were hoping for. I still might have to give it a try. :) Great review.

    Jenea @ Books Live Forever

    1. Thanks, Jenea. Let me know what you think about it if you read it! :)

  2. I'm so sorry you coudln't get into this! I just got it from the library, so I'm hoping to enjoy it a little more. Thanks for the honest review.

    1. Thanks, Becca. I hope you enjoy it. The characters are likable for the most part.

  3. Sounds interesting but I sometimes have trouble with sad/tragic stuff. It ALWAYS makes me cry. Plus I have a feeling that the rather unresolved answers/emotions you mentioned and some of reliving would annoy me. Thanks for the review!

  4. I have read some stories like this before and I think they always jumped into the past in order to explain what happened before the person died. I feel like it wouldn't be powerful if he was already dead and then you just read about her moving on from his death. You would have zero emotional connection to the story if you didn't understand what he meant to her before he died.

    However I haven't read this story yet so I can't say that that would work in this case.

    Thanks for the great review, sorry it wasn't what you were looking for.

    1. Thanks, Alexa. I agree that we need to know thier past to understand just what he means to her. It's just that much of the story takes place after they've already gone their separate ways, and it isn't until the end that we find out why they drifted apart and what exactly Finn means to Autumn. It didn't work for me, but there are those who love this story.


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