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Book Review: If He Had Been with Me

by | Apr 28, 2023 | Book Reviews, Young Adult

Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Age Rating: 14+

In today’s blog post, I want to share with you an achingly authentic and raw book: If He Had Been with Me by Laura Nowlin. This coming-of-age story is about two high school friends, Autumn and Finny, and their experiences with friendship, love, and loss. The story takes place in a small Midwestern town and deeply connects with anyone who has gone through the ups and downs of growing up and dealing with relationships.

If He Had Been with Me offers a raw portrait of love and regret that reflects the relationships we hold closest to our hearts. Its genuine portrayal of the complexities of friendship and love makes it a powerful read that will resonate with many readers. If you enjoy fiction, coming-of-age stories, or just want a truly emotional reading experience, I strongly recommend you check out this book.

Tropes in this Book

  • Childhood friends
  • Friends to lovers
  • Miscommunication
  • Love triangle

If He Had Been with Me Summary

If He Had Been with Me presents an authentic and raw portrait of the complexities of friendship, love, and loss during high school. Set in a small Midwestern town, this New York Times bestseller centers around Autumn and Finny, next-door neighbors and lifelong friends whose mothers are best friends. Born just a week apart, their bond is tested by life’s challenges and changes, including navigating school, societal expectations, and their own evolving emotions.

During their middle school years, Autumn and Finny drift apart, finding new friends and seemingly fitting into different social circles. However, their friendship keeps asserting through shared holiday gatherings, parties, and random encounters. As they grow older, Autumn and Finn rediscover their connection during the summer after graduation, just as Finny faces a life-altering impact.

The novel follows the tragic consequences of their decisions, both made and unmade, as these events shape their lives irrevocably. With the raw emotions of life and mortality at the forefront, Autumn and Finny confront the harsh realities of existence and find strength in each other and within themselves.

Thoughts and Feelings

Reading If He Had Been with Me was an emotional adventure that touched my heart and left a strong impression on me. Laura Nowlin created an authentic and honest story about the ups and downs of friendship, love, and loss. As I read the book, I felt a strong connection to Autumn and Finny as they went through life’s challenges together. How the characters’ feelings were described made it easy for me to understand and relate to their struggles and victories.

What stood out to me most in the book was the realistic way the relationships between the characters were shown. Autumn and Finny’s friendship was captivating, and it was amazing to see how close they remained as they grew up. The other characters in the story, like Sylvie, Maya, and even Autumn’s boyfriend, Jamie, added more depth and made the story even more interesting. Their growth and interactions throughout the book showed how vital our connections with others can be.

The novel’s feeling was a mix of sadness and hope, as the characters faced challenging situations but still found beauty in life. As a reader, the book made me think about my own experiences and relationships and consider my life choices. If He Had Been with Me encouraged me to be grateful for the people in my life and to value the connections I’ve made, even when life gets complicated.

Final Thoughts

This unforgettable coming-of-age novel is something you won’t want to miss. The characters, especially the main character Autumn, are easy to relate to, and their challenges feel real. Laura Nowlin’s excellent storytelling brings out all the emotions, so you can’t help but get deeply invested in the characters’ lives.

The book’s emotional depth delves into profound themes of love, friendship, and personal growth, evoking a powerful and moving experience. However, what truly sets this book apart is its distinctive perspective on friendship, skillfully intertwining elements of sadness and hope to create a captivating balance.

Nowlin’s use of symbols, images, and how she shows grief and loss leaves the novel with a lasting impression. She avoids clichés when talking about relationships and instead goes deep into the details of friendship, love, and loss, making the story both engaging and emotionally powerful.

I recommend If He Had Been with Me to fans of literary fiction, coming-of-age stories, and anyone who has gone through the ups and downs of teenage friendships or one-sided love.

If you found this review helpful, you can check out the book at Bookshop.org here and support local bookstores along the way!

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