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April 24, 2013

Review: If He Had Been With Me by Laura Nowlin

Title: If He Had Been With Me
Author: Laura Nowlin
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Publication date: April 1st, 2013
Genre(s): Young Adult (Contemporary) 
Source: Publisher
Format: Paperback 
Pages: 330
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've been dreading writing the review for this book. As soon as I finished it, my biggest fear was HOW am I going to write my review for this? It's definitely difficult, but here I go. The main protagonist of this book, Autumn, is the awkward child. Autumn lives with her mom, and her dad visits for holiday's and weekly dinners from time to time. Autumn's mother is best friends with their neighbor, and the two are mentioned as "The Mothers" throughout the book. Being neighbors all their lives, Autumn and Finn (Who Autumn calls Finny) were inseparable. They were born the same month and same year. Their mothers were best friends since childhood. They completely did everything together, and couldn't imagine being separated when they were kids. In middle school, they somehow started drifting apart. Finny became more of the chill, popular guy, while Autumn stayed as the awkward child. They each that their own "clique". What's funny is that Finny and Autumn families still celebrate every christmas, thanksgiving, and any other family event together. Talk about awwwkward... The Mothers definitely found it weird that Autumn and Finny wouldn't speak to each other at those events, but decided not to say anything about it. The thing is Finny was never mean to Autumn, and vice versa. It was SO hard for me to read about a friendship like theirs drifting away. As we read through the book, we're taken about 4 years back, before the accident. 
As I read on and on, my heart was LITERALLY breaking into pieces. The way Laura Nowlin was able to grasp a perfect reality such as this, was breathtaking. The simple yet important things friends did was what she spotlighted. I loved it. Despite the book being throughout high school, there were many flashbacks in order to explain to us how precious and important their friendship was. Reading on, I started to think of the fictional characters, as NON fictional. I just couldn't believe how real they felt to me, like they were a part of my personal life. Just thinking about them now makes me feel like I've lost two of my best friends. I think the thing that got to me was how sad it was to see such a friendship as theirs drift apart. I was crazy with questions like why, and who was the one at fault, and WHYYYY? I was seriously depressed at that point. I remember on page 264, I read that page about five times, bawling my eyes out. Not because it was sad, but no, it was such a simple yet beautiful page. I mean yes, it's still sad that they aren't good friends, but oh God, I don't even know how to explain it. 
The annoying thing is that while I was reading, I had his death at the back of my head. No, I didn't spoil anything, it's in the synopsis. Whenever I read something about Finny, I loved him more, and thinking that he was going to die just shattered my heart into pieces. I didn't even want to finish the book because of that reason. I start crying every time I remember that he dies, and I would keep hoping that maybe, just maybe, Laura Nowlin just wanted to trick us. Unfortunately, that was not the case. I'm still glad I finished the book, because in someways, it was happy. Like Autumn would say, death can be happy sometimes. I know, it might sound weird, but she's right. This book, in my opinion, is a masterpiece. It will always be a part of my heart, because to me it's not just a book, but more like a memory I want to treasure forever. I thank Laura Nowlin SO much for letting me find a treasure as great as this. The writing style for this book was just exquisite. I will definitely treasure it forever. There's also a quote that Autumn said, that just literally described my feelings for this book:
“This book is a treasure; I did not suspect it would be so good when I picked it up, but now I can feel the printed words seeping through my skin and into my veins, rushing to my heart and marking it forever. I want to savour this wonder, this happening of a loving book and reading it for the first time, because the first time is always the best, and I will never read this book for the first time again” - If He Had Been With Me, Laura Nowlin
Infinite love


  1. It's horrible reading about a good character when you know they are going to die. This sounds completely heart-breaking, but I've heard nothing but good things so far, so I hope to give it a try one day. Brilliant review, Farah!

  2. I think this is the first time that you've given infinite love for a book. Although contemporary YA is not my thing, you made me very curious.

  3. This sounds like a book that I will need a box of tissues to read with. Wonderful review.

    Jenea @ Books Live Forever

  4. I love the sound of this book!!! And my library does not have it -- boo! But I'm adding it to the TBR. Great, heartfelt review!

    You can find me here: Jen @ YA Romantics

  5. You had my DYING to read this book. I am going to buy it right now!! I love books that are so realistic that you start to think of it as non-fiction. I'm really glad you enjoyed this book. Thank you for sharing you thoughts (:

    Sapir @ Diary of a Wimpy Teen Girl

  6. Beautiful review, Farah! This story makes my heart ache and I have yet to read it. It's sad but I'm very curious to know how it will end for Autumn. I'll keep my tissues in handy.

  7. I've seen such amazing reviews for this one, and I feel really lucky because I actually got a copy for review! It's amazing how an author is able to make their characters connect with the reader and vice versa sometimes. I'm so glad that it was the case in If He Had Been With Me! <3 I'm so excited to read this one now, thanks for the beautiful review, Farah!

  8. Farah,
    Thanks for this review! I love it when readers quote Autumn to express their feelings for IHHBWM!

  9. Oh my word! I have to read this book! It sounds amazing! I'm still not ready for emotional books because I'm still recovering from Clockwork Princess! Great review!

  10. This review makes me so happy -- well, not the whole Finny dying part and that being heart breaking ... -- but I really want to read this book. It looks so fabulous and tragic. This review just confirms it.

  11. I'm a little frightened by the idea that a death can be beautiful, but then again so books and entertainment have ended beautifully with a simplistic death. It's quite frightening how it can happen, but it just makes the book all the more powerful.

    This book sounds so sad, but sweet. Definitely going to give it a try.

    Angie @ YA Novelties

  12. *Clicks new tab*
    *types in IF HE HAD BEEN WITH ME on Goodread's search bar*
    *clicks WANT TO READ*

    Wow. I'm definitely going to get this and read it over the summer because I haven't read any tragedy books recently. Your review just make me want to grab the book from Goodreads... but.. we know that's not going to happen. Lol. It sounds so amazing and I'm really in the mood for those kinds of books where they are childhood best friends, but something unexpected happens.

    Little Book Star

  13. I've seen some reviews for this book and more or less everyone say it's amazing. I still haven't read it but I'm planing to. I'm really happy you enjoyed it :)

  14. I'm with you Farah on how much of a beautiful read If He Had Been with Me was. I too was hoping that the ending would change to and that it was just a mean trick by the author. And that quote is one my favourites too, my Kindle was over the top full with highlights! Beautiful review Farah! :)

  15. I know so many people loved this book in spite of the sad ending! I have to brace myself before picking something like this up because it really depresses me so! It does sounds like a beautiful but utterly heartbreaking read. Brilliant review, Farah. :)

  16. This one sounds so intense I can't believe I hadn't heard of it before today! Stunning review!

  17. I have been seeing mixed reviews for this book, but your infinity rating has put all my worries to rest. I wanted to read this book since I first saw it and now read it I will! Thank you for the super awesome reivew. I'm glad you liked this book, Farah. :)

    Sarika @ The Readdicts

  18. I almost picked this one up at the bookstore two days ago but I hadn't read any reviews so I put it back on the shelf. After reading your review, I'm ready to get back in my car and rush to the store. This sounds like just the heartbreaking book I need.

  19. Oh wow... I feel like this story is going to break me into tiny pieces. But i'm kinda thinking " BREAK ME PLEASE " I love stories that hit me hard. Great review!

  20. I loved this book soooo much. Its extremely sad though, I cried four times but it got me into reading a lot more.