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Posted May 28, 2013
Autumn and Finn are the children of best friends. Their mothers
Autumn and Finn are the children of best friends. Their mothers gave birth to them within weeks of each other, they've lived right next door to each other their entire lives and have family dinners several times a week. This is all good and great until a small incident turns into a big problem and Autumn and Finn grow apart. They spend high school barely speaking or even acknowledging each other. They each have a close knit set of friends and they are both in loving relationships. They also both miss each other more than they care to admit.
When circumstance and happenstance continually place them together, love inevitably wins them over only to be torn apart by death. This isn't a spoiler, not really. You know from the synopsis and the first several pages of the book that the death is an inevitability. It's the journey to the death that is the story.
Autumn, at many times was shallow and immature and I had difficulty remembering how old she is supposed to be. Then she would show a moment of growth or vulnerability that would help me understand her just a little. She's grown up in a house with a depressed mother and takes on many of those traits without any knowledge of doing so. It's the decisions she makes out of pure emotion that had me pulling my hair out. She had this pure desperation to fit into some group, weather it be the popular cheerleader types or the misfits. The group didn't seem to matter as much as just having a place and people to 'belong to'. I wanted her to be stronger, but that just is not who she is as a character.
If He Had Been With Me chronicles a large chunk of Autumn's life and the journey to finding real love and admitting it to yourself and the person your heart belongs too. It's a journey of self awareness and honesty. Autumn finally finds that strength and has one perfect moment of truly feeling it's happiness before it is ripped away from her and she must learn to live without it and with the decisions she made before it.
If He Had Been With Me started off a little rough for me. The writing style gave me many a pause, it had a very middle grad feel to it. There is not much in the way of description, it's a very clinical feeling narrative. It took me some time to get used to. After finding a groove with the writing, the story began to pull me in. As I said, you know pretty well from the start how it is all going to end but I still wanted to see how the story got there.
The ending was the biggest fall back, for me. It dealt with a couple of extremely delicate situations, yet felt rushed and unconcerned. I would have liked to see Nowlin delve deeper into the meatier issues that are brought up throughout the story. It touches on death, suicide, depression and teen pregnancy but almost blows over all of them.
This is a story that will find an audience. Those who love coming of age tales will find many aspects of If He Had Been With Me riveting and I think many teenage girls will relate well to Autumn and the situations she finds herself in.
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