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.
Release Date: April 1, 2013
Published By: Sourcebooks Fire
Review Copy: ARC, 328
*received from publisher
Talk about heart break. Laura Nowlin created beautiful characters that I fell in love with and felt for. Despite the heartbreak, If He Had Been With Me was beautiful and will stay with me in my heart long after it is put down. I am not too proud to admit I cried with this one and even seeing Finn (the one from the Goldfish commercial) brought up a bubble of emotion after finishing this. Normally you get to hope for a happy ending with most contemporary novels but thing is with this one you know the sadness is coming but still hope to avoid it. I kept thinking that the start wasn't really the end and the end would be a new start. I couldn't have been further off and my heart couldn't have dropped any more.
A life's story. That is what this is about the life story of Autumn and Finn, what could have been, what should have been and what did happen. The amount of times I had hope that things were going to change and the characters would have time to discover each other can not be counted on my fingers and toes. As fate or Nowlin would have it that was just not how the story would be. You watch the two people that grow apart long for each other on the inside and yet show everyone around them something else, an indifference that almost hurts to watch. The feeling of "what if" haunted me throughout the entire novel and holding my breath became a regular practice.
Autumn was a brilliant character and I enjoyed reading through her eyes. The best thing about her is that she is confident. She is who she is and acts how she wants because no one can make her be anyone else. She knows she's pretty but as she puts it what does it matter if you're pretty when people know you're odd but she owns it. Her thoughts and feelings are both of a teenage girl and someone wiser. Knowing what you want and living by it are two different things and she gets the difference and deals with the situations as they come. Autumn is a well developed, grounded, creative and beautiful character that I couldn't help but get attached to.
There are no small parts in this one. Each character is developed and important to the story that unfolds. Finn is someone that we learn about through Autumn's eyes and the flashbacks she has throughout the novel. Beyond Fin there is the mothers, Autumn's friends/boyfriend and Finn's girlfriend. Not one was disposable, you get to know them with different depths. It didn't matter if I liked, loved or disliked the character I became attached to each one. Despite my mixed emotions about Jamie the boyfriend some of the things he said and did for Autumn melted my heart but there was also a feeling of something off with him for me.
It doesn't matter that you know what's coming, personally I couldn't stop the emotion from building within and bursting out at the end. My words and review just can not do this one justice. It's like watching a fairy tale and the ending being switched out for reality. Sleeping Beauty doesn't wake up, the frog stays a frog but the beauty of the journey is still there. Laura Nowlin has beautifully crafted a story in which you can see the beauty in the tragic ending because the story that gets you there gives you hope. Don't let the tragic ending detour you from the beauty of this story and the immaculate writing.
What they do not know is that there is another story. The story lurking underneath and in between the facts of the one they can see. What they do not know, the cause of the argument, is crucial to the story of me.
It is unlike Finny to cancel on his mother, but I felt odd asking. I have a fear of someone suspecting how often I wonder about Finny. I always try not to show too much interest, just in case.
"No, because sometimes sad things are beautiful," I say "Like when someone dies.""That isn't beautiful. That just sucks," Jamie says."You don't understand what I mean," I say
I've loved him my whole life, ad somewhere along the way, that love didn't change, but grew. It grew to fill the parts of me that I did not have when I was a child. It grew with every new longing in my body and desire in my heart until there was not a piece of me that did not love him.