If He Had Been with Me by Laura Nowlin *Review*

Some days I look back on my high school career.  On those days I am embraced with a sort of sadness, the kind that leaves you filled with regret, pain, and sorrow.  My high school life was not one I look back on and miss or long to go back too.  It was the kind of experience that makes me cringe and wish never happened.  I will never go to any high school reunions and I will never tell my kids (if I ever have kids) how awesome high school was.  I was not popular, but I was also not a misfit.  I had a few friends but they were the kind drama followed and left you wondering what was real and what was fake.  Seven years out of high school now and I have found that I love having very few friends, being genuinely honest, and letting myself focus on me whenever I need too.

If He Had Been with Me by Laura Nowlin depicts high school in the most realistic way that I have read in a while.  I felt myself back in those halls among people I never felt truly myself with.  Her main character Autumn felt things that I am sure everyone has felt or been through, but has been to afraid to say so honestly.  From the moment the book starts you know there will be a tragic death at the end.  Despite this knowledge you find yourself still wanting to follow Autumns life and find out what happens…

Goodreads synopsis:

If he had been with me everything would have been different…

I wasn’t with Finn on that August night. But I should’ve been. It was raining, of course. And he and Sylvie were arguing as he drove down the slick road. No one ever says what they were arguing about. Other people think it’s not important. They do not know there is another story. The story that lurks between the facts. What they do not know—the cause of the argument—is crucial.

So let me tell you…

My Experience:

Laura Nowlin’s writing at first was a bit boring to me.  It took me a little while to get used to it but once I did I knew I wanted to hear Autumn’s story.   This novel is, after all, a book about life and in most cases life isn’t full of action or adventure, it just simply is what it is.  Surrounded by fellow misfits trying to stick it to the status quo by saying,”we are different,”  Autumn and her friends make a world where they are not misfits at all.  The idea of popularity and the natural stereotypes that come with those who are popular are so obnoxious to them that they have to be exactly who they are in order to avoid being anything related to popularity.  They rebel so hard against it that in reality they aren’t rebels at all and are still conforming to a standard part of high school life, and they know it.  The only problem with not being popular is that Autumn’s best friend, a boy she has grown up with since childhood, is now in the popular group.

This not only is a story about high school life, but about a love that runs so deep that two best friends, grown apart by accident, can’t even admit it to themselves.  It is a story about depression and how it can eat away at you.   It is about life and its utter unpredictability and yet its predictability at the same time. Nowlin grabs the essence and truth about depression and writes about it so well that I couldn’t help but cry.  Reading as Autumn suffered from depression made me continuously think “yes, this is exactly how it feels and how much it sucks.”   When Autumn sees a therapist and talks about the waiting room, or how she talks to the doctor, or how she feels about him writing in is journal, I am brought back to the days where I too had to sit with my therapist.  Her description was so spot on and I loved that about this book.  Every emotion, every thought, every conversation was so realistic and perfect that this story didn’t feel made up or fake at all.  I knew what was going to happen with almost every event in this book, but I couldn’t help but keep reading and getting so angry I wanted to throw the book, or smile because something was so simply funny, or cry because it was so painfully true.  I knew I was in for a book that would emotionally destroy me and make me cry like a baby.  And thats exactly what I did.  I sat outside in the sun, drank my coffee, and cried.  I love the love Autumn feels for Finn, I loved reading how it came to be. I will love their characters forever even though their story breaks my heart and how it ends will always devastate me.

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