From the Publisher
"This sweet, authentic love story masks complex characters dealing with complex issues: single parents, divorce, only children yet ersatz siblings; high school, college, the pull of the clique; love, friendship, sex, and teen pregnancy . . . First-time author Nowlin keeps the story real and fast paced, avoiding the melodramatic." " - Booklist
"The finely drawn characters capture readers' attention in this debut . . .Autumn's coming-of-age is sensitively chronicled, with a wide range of experiences and events shaping her character. Even secondary characters are well-rounded, with their own histories and motivations . . . Readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn's head." - Kirkus Reviews
"Wonderful, beautifully written, haunting, heartbreaking and simply amazing! That's just the tip of the iceberg when describing my opinion of If He Had Been with Me. Ahhhh...although no words can truly describe how much I loved this book!! Months ago I knew I wanted to read it but never could have imagined how great it would be.I can honestly say this is already in my top ten reads of all time. I was sucked in from the first page and never wanted it to end. It's a story of love, friendship and fate. It will have you thinking about the what ifs and make you think if life really has us here for a certain reason. Pick up this read...NOW! Trust me you won't regret it! " - A Southern Girl's Bookshelf
"This book is a treasure; 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" - The Reader's Den
" It's lovely and so beautifully written - I just wish I had a smidgeon of her talent.And the writing. Oh, the writing. So perfect and poetic. I felt like I was reading snippets of Autumn's personal journal and I couldn't put it down. Despite that I knew there was a *Romeo and Juliet-esque / tragic love story ending, I couldn't help but allow myself to be swept away by Autumn and Finn's story. I enjoyed If He had Been With Me so much that I'm adding Laura Nowlin to my auto-read list. Her writing, you guys, is just that sublime. Definitely take a chance on this story - allow yourselves to be caught up in Autumn and Finn's lives and to root for two childhood best friends to fall in love." - Rather Be Reading
"If you're looking for an emotionally-charged teen read, this is your book-hands down. Fans of YA Contemporary Romance, New Adult, or Coming of Age will also enjoy this book." - Literary Meanderings
"There's something about Laura Nowlin's writing that reaches out and touches the heart in unexpected ways. It also has a more literary feel at times, perhaps because Autumn is a writer, and the way Nowlin meshes foreshadowing with Autumn's own quirks is a unique, captivating blend. I don't know what I was expecting when I initially picked this one up, but it wasn't the level of depth I found myself encountering. A strong debut from an author to watch!" - A Backwards Story
"Both breathtaking and heartbreaking, this novel will leave you completely stunned...you can rest assured that this will be one book in your life you will never regret." - teenreads.com
"[Autumn and Finn's] romance is Shakespeare-worthy in its tragic dimension. Autumn's reflections on love's possibilities and near-misses will surely resonate with the unsettled teen soul, and readers will get exactly what they came for, and then some." - The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"The heart of this novel is an examination of an unresolved childhood love that is so pure and sweet that it seems too fragile to survive the turbulent years of adolescence. Using tender prose that makes it hard not to care about the main characters, this title chronicles four years of high school and the confusing post-graduation period. At the end, when Nowlin reveals why Finny should have been with Autumn all along, readers are sure to feel the ache of life's capriciousness. " - School Library Journal
VOYA - Courtney M. Krieger
Autumn and Finn have spent their whole lives living next door to each other, sharing family dinners, and enduring the undying friendship of their mothers while theirs slowly burns out. Once inseparable, they now act like strangers. While Finn becomes a preppy soccer star who parties and dates a pretty cheerleader, Autumn joins a group of outcasts who mock conformity and everything Finn represents. Even so, fate refuses to let Autumn and Finn forget the connection that they shared as children, and uses it to show them that no matter how hard they might try, sometimes two people simply belong together. They also learn the difficult lesson about appreciating what they have before it is gone. If He Had Been With Me is a haunting story that stays with the reader long after the last page. The reader gets, from Autumn's perspective, a window into the complex lives of adolescents trying to find their place among others. Nowlin's hypnotic writing style adds authenticity and a natural flow that draw the reader into her complex world of friendship, love, doubt, betrayal, and depression. Each aspect is portrayed with honesty and without apology. Teens who enjoy coming-of-age stories that realistically portray the intricate lives and relationships of young adults will gravitate to this novel. As a result, educators and librarians looking for fast-moving, interesting plots, in-depth characters, and meaningful themes need to add this one to their shelves. Reviewer: Courtney M. Krieger
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Autumn Davis and Phineas Smith grew up together; their mothers are best friends and next-door neighbors. Hand in hand, they experienced life's milestones until adolescence; that's when they grow apart as each one struggles to form an identity outside of their families. Autumn slips to the fringes of the high school hierarchy, while Finny skyrockets to the top. They both find new friends and romantic relationships. Autumn's boyfriend, Jamie, is smart, handsome, and patient enough to nurture her through her bouts with depression. Finny's relationship with his girlfriend, Sylvie, is complex. The heart of this novel is an examination of an unresolved childhood love that is so pure and sweet that it seems too fragile to survive the turbulent years of adolescence. Using tender prose that makes it hard not to care about the main characters, this title chronicles four years of high school and the confusing post-graduation period. At the end, when Nowlin reveals why Finny should have been with Autumn all along, readers are sure to feel the ache of life's capriciousness.—Mindy Whipple, West Jordan Library, UT
The finely drawn characters capture readers' attention in this debut. Autumn and Phineas, nicknamed Finny, were born a week apart; their mothers are still best friends. Growing up, Autumn and Finny were like peas in a pod despite their differences: Autumn is "quirky and odd," while Finny is "sweet and shy and everyone like[s] him." But in eighth grade, Autumn and Finny stop being friends due to an unexpected kiss. They drift apart and find new friends, but their friendship keeps asserting itself at parties, shared holiday gatherings and random encounters. In the summer after graduation, Autumn and Finny reconnect and are finally ready to be more than friends. But on August 8, everything changes, and Autumn has to rely on all her strength to move on. Autumn's coming-of-age is sensitively chronicled, with a wide range of experiences and events shaping her character. Even secondary characters are well-rounded, with their own histories and motivations. There's not much plot here, but readers will relish the opportunity to climb inside Autumn's head. (Fiction. 14 & up)
Read an Excerpt
I wasn't with Finny on that August night, but my imagination has burned the scene in my mind so that it feels like a memory.
It was raining, of course, and with his girlfriend, Sylvie Whitehouse, he glided through the rain in the red car his father had given him on his sixteenth birthday. In a few weeks, Finny would be turning nineteen.
They were arguing. No one ever says what they were arguing about. It is, in other people's opinions, not important to the story. 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.
I can see it-the rain-slicked road and the flashing lights of ambulance and police cars cutting through the darkness of night, warning those passing by: catastrophe has struck here, please drive slowly. I see Sylvie sitting sideways out of the back of the policeman's car, her feet drumming on the wet pavement as she talks. I cannot hear her, but I see Sylvie tell them the cause of the argument, and I know, I know, I know, I know. If he had been with me, everything would have been different.
I can see them in the car before the accident-the heavy rain, the world and the pavement as wet and slick as if it had been oiled down for their arrival. They glide through the night, regrettably together, and they argue. Finny is frowning. He is distracted. He is not thinking of the rain or the car or the wet road beneath it. He is thinking of this argument with Sylvie. He is thinking of the cause of the argument, and the car swerves suddenly to the right, startling him out of his thoughts. I imagine that Sylvie screams, and then he overcompensates by turning the wheel too far.
Finny is wearing his seat belt. He is blameless. It is Sylvie who is not. When the impact occurs, she sails through the windshield and out into the night, improbably, miraculously, only suffering minor cuts on her arms and face. Though true, it is hard to imagine, so hard that even I cannot achieve the image. All I can see is the moment afterward, the moment of her weightless suspension in the air, her arms flailing in slow motion, her hair, a bit bloody and now wet with rain, streaming behind her like a mermaid's, her mouth a round O in a scream of panic, the dark wet night surrounding her in perfect silhouette.
Sylvie is suddenly on Earth again. She hits the pavement with a loud smack and is knocked unconscious.
She lies on the pavement, crumpled. Finny is untouched. He breathes heavily, and in shock and wonder, he stares out into the night. This is his moment of weightless suspension. His mind is blank. He feels nothing, he thinks nothing; he exists, perfect and unscathed. He does not even hear the rain.
Stay. I whisper to him. Stay in the car. Stay in this moment.
But of course he never does.