Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Review: If He Had Been With Me by Laura Nowlin

Title: If He Had Been With Me
Author: Laura Nowlin
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Fiction

Goodreads rating: 4.13 out of 5.00 (630+ ratings)
Goodreads | The Book Depository | Amazon

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.

Review by Chantelle

Wow. This book made me feel all the feels. FINNY FINNY FINNY, argh, hello book boyfriend, he is (was? *cries*) so amazing, the type of amazing that makes my insides twist and turn just thinking about him for this review. Just wow.

I'm definitely a girl who likes to read about happily ever afters - I mean don't we all? I'm also the type of girl who loves and needs the characters to be happy. I guess I really should've known better than to start this book in denial... Here's what I mean:

The first line of the blurb: If he had been with me, he wouldn't have died.
Me starting the book: *What? Finny's so awesome! No way is he going to die*

Also in the blurb: Autumn has been happily dating James for the last 2 years.
Me after Autumn has only been dating James for a year: *Okay this is totally when her and Finny are going to get together right*

Idiot! So my advice to readers is that you MUST read this book, however, know what you're getting into. This is a tragedy. I repeat, THIS IS A TRAGEDY, but please do not let that detour you from reading. Even if you don't think that you enjoy those types of books, because with the lows, come the highs, and they are so so worth it! If only just to meet Finny... (and yes I'm calling him Finny, and not Finn, because I've deluded myself into believing we are that tight). I definitely did struggle through this book at times because of the lows, Nara can testify that I went through phases where I was begging for spoilers and swearing up and down that I couldn't keep reading, while promising that I'd award myself with the fluffiest, most summery contemporary if I finished. But guess what, I didn't need it, because this book blew my mind. So, read this! And if you blast through it, GREAT! If not, just remember.

Keep Calm and KEEP READING Poster

Laura Nowlin has got you covered!

Knowing this, the narrative of Autumn begins in an almost surreal tone of voice. It's quite detached, she's an observer in the living world. You can detect straight away that there is an impending tragedy. For a reader like myself who was struggling to come to terms that this wasn't going to have a "happily ever after", it genuinely felt as if my heart was a thin piece of paper that she was slowly tearing in half. Especially as unlike other YA heroines, her coming of age was with a growing sense of disillusionment in the possibility of a happy future.There was one quote that pretty much sums up my golden rule with books:

"There's real life and then there are books"

Oh naive me, I know. But there is so much foreshadowing, and I was battling denial until the bitter end. Autumn loves writing tragedies (go figure!), early on, there are references to Romeo & Juliet, where obviously both lovers die, and Wuthering Heights. where Cathy and Heathcliff are separated by death. But with the latter reference came hope, because who doesn't love Wuthering Heights right?

But still, so much was written in past tense! Reinforcing the fact that the ending was concrete, and nothing would change the inevitable outcome. And leading up to the conclusion, the chapters are short, time moves very quickly - from her freshman years, to her graduation - and it just adds to that lump in your throat, and that dull ache in your chest that makes it hard to breathe, especially since you're too invested and caught up in the book to compose yourself.

This is a twisted best friends turned lovers romance. And goodness, you ship Autumn/Finny so badly! They spent all their childhood attached at the hip, they knew each other inside and out until high school came along, and they went into different cliques. Slowly they drift apart until Finny is all but unattainable. He's the sweetest guy, definitely swoony, definitely you-need-to-read-this-to-meet-him, and I'm-now-going-to-name-my-son-Finny material. There's this one scene where they're drinking rum and coke... My inner book nerd fainted. My goodness, the highs in the book, THE HIGHS!!!!

It was all worth it though, a definite 5 star read! This was extremely well written and definitely deserves to be moved up all of your TBR lists.

To Laura Nowlin if you ever read this, I need the story of Aden and Izzy!! Please please please. Or a series of prequel novellas with Finny and Autumn when they were children. Okay, I am getting way too excited by that thought!

Alright, got to go guys, I need to make a banner in my room that says:

I dream, I wake, I see him, I sleep. 

Overall: 8/10
Plot: 4/5
Writing: 4/5
Characters: 4.5/5
Cover: 5/5


  1. Mate, you were definitely in denial haha. Also, #nospoilers ;)

    1. hahah yeah crying and staying up before exams is always a great move

  2. I love this review!!! No one has ever suggested before that I write Izzy and Aden's story...

    1. Aw thanks! I can't believe they haven't, it'd be a whole books worth of chapter 81, which made me so unfathomably giddy haha it'd basically make my year

  3. Actually, I kind of prefer tragic stories over happy ones, because I'm weird like that. But wow, five stars! That's promising! I remember reading some mixed reviews so I didn't bother to give this book a go, but I think you might just change my mind. :) I love the sound of Finny, too! (What can I say? I'm attracted to best-friend-turn-boyfriend!). Great review, Chantelle!

    1. HAHA this is seriously the perfect read for you then! And best friend turned boyfriend romances get me everytime too ;) Really hope you get around to reading this one Megan