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If He Had Been with Me

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Overview

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 ...

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Overview

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...

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Editorial Reviews

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 to 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
Kirkus Reviews
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)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781402277825
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 4/2/2013
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 83,664
  • Age range: 13 - 17 Years
  • Lexile: HL680L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Laura Nowlin holds a B.A. in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing from Missouri University. When she isn't at home agonizing over her own novels, Laura works at the public library, where the patrons give her plenty of inspiration for her writing. She lives in St. Louis with her musician husband, neurotic dog, and psychotic cat.
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Read an Excerpt

1

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.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 100 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(67)

4 Star

(22)

3 Star

(5)

2 Star

(4)

1 Star

(2)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 100 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 14, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    I've been dreading writing the review for this book. As soon as

    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

    27 out of 36 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 11, 2013

    I absolutely loved this book!!!!!! And I totally cried at the en

    I absolutely loved this book!!!!!! And I totally cried at the end. It broke my heart and I will never forget this book. Ones like these don't come around very often.

    14 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 1, 2013

    emotional

    What a stroy. I cant explain it- This book made me have anxiety because I knew the ending, but I could not put it down. I wanted to know there story. This is one of those books that will stay with you; just like Fall Into You By Jasinda Wilder and Hopeless by Collen Hoover.

    11 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 4, 2013

    Perfect

    I loved it and i suggest it to any and every one. I read this book in 4 hours.

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 5, 2013

    When you're aware of how it ends and still read the book anyway,

    When you're aware of how it ends and still read the book anyway, you know it's amazing. This book was definitely amazing! Beautiful and tragic. I'm dying to see what else Laura Nowlin is capable of!

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 1, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    I really, really wanted to fall in love with this novel. It came

    I really, really wanted to fall in love with this novel. It came off to a good start with the beautiful, poetic imagery of the opening scene. It's a dark contemporary, and I have a good dark contemporary. Especially if it makes me cry. Then it takes out out of the opening scene back into the past--all the way back to the beginining.
    A lot of the backstory is needed to understand Finn and Autumn's relationship. However, I didn't want to go through all of high school with them when I already knew the outcome. (Finn's going to die. It's laid out clearly for us.) It was interesting at first to learn about their childhood, and I was curious about why they stopped hanging out together. Even if they fell into different social spheres in middle and high school, they have a long history of friendship that isn't easily overcome by social barriers. However, the story ends up stagnating and dragging on, and I skimmed much of the latter half of the story looking for answers that didn't come until the end of the novel.
    What I'd been hoping to see was more of what happens to Autumn after Finn's death, or at least see their story closer to the time of his death instead of reliving high school with her. It might have been an interesting story, but Autumn is a hard-to-pin-down narrator. Much of the story seems to be summarized, as Autumn doesn't really let us get into her head. She keeps much of the important details about herself, her relationships, and her feelings bottled up within her. Finn is a more open character, and though Autumn is the one narrating the story, it's easier to understand him.
    Overall, the beginning and the end are what made the story for me. While there was a lot of potential to the story as a whole, I wasn't able to relate to Autumn enough for the story to click with me, which is important in a story as character driven as this one is. Nevertheless, it is finding a fan-base, and readers who enjoy a contemporary tragic love story may enjoy this one.

    6 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2013

    Sweet, Warm, Yet Tragic Love Story

    Autumn and Finn are affable, intelligent, and witty friends since babyhood . Now in high school, they navigate cliques and dating, but not each other. The reader and most characters know they belong together, and yet Nowlin has let us know at the start that it is not to be, so tension and love for the characters build as I read. I didn't want the book to end. This is billed as YA fiction but I'm in my 50's and loved it!

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 14, 2013

    Talk about tears

    Talk about tears! This book was so sad at the end nearly cried for an hour! If you want more tears and thrills, try "silver wolf." that story is truly amazing. The thrills, romance, ad suspense will have you at the end of your seat. I recomend it for 10 and up. TRULY AMAZING!!!!!!!

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2014

    Anonymous

    She cries, she cries for him, for what could've been, she cried for his pain, for her pain.
    She cried because she knew she would never have him.
    He's the one she will always be waiting for, but she's saying goodby.
    He will forever and always be in her heart.
    He will always be that, what if?
    She will forever and always remember him.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2014

    Anonymous

    Amazing. This book is truely amazing. The author went so in depth with the main character and i just loved her personality. My heart was breaking at the end. Other reviews spoiled it for me before i even started the book but that doesnt matter because once i started reading i forgot all about those reviews and just focused on the book. Im not super emotional with books and i will say i didnt cry because i was simply in awe of the book. My heart breaks for the characters, i havent ever had that happen to me. BEAUTIFUL BOOK. 6 stars.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2013

    If He Had Been With Me

    This book is so amazing. I re-read 3 times and each time hit

    me harder than the one before it. Ve never expirienced a book this sad. Laura Nowlin Is an amazing Author. I hope to become an Amazing Author Just Like Her.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 25, 2013

    I absolutely loved this book until the ending. I felt like the a

    I absolutely loved this book until the ending. I felt like the author was trying to end the book too quickly and so everything felt rushed. Also, there was some "events" towards the end that I personally didn't agree with and that I felt were dealt with too lightly.
    The romance was cute in the beginning and middle of the book and I loved Autumn's voice, but this book was just NOT for me. 
     

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 28, 2013

    Awesome

    Started out slow and i wasnt very interested but loved it in the end

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 5, 2013

    I enjoyed reading this book.  It was a page turner.  I didn't re

    I enjoyed reading this book.  It was a page turner.  I didn't read beforehand the age group this was intended for, but it was a good reminder of my high school years and all the stumbling blocks everyone faces.  I recommend this book for a quick weekend read.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2013

    I just read ¿If He Had Been With Me¿ by Laura Nowlin¿.All I can

    I just read “If He Had Been With Me” by Laura Nowlin….All I can say is wow. Though written from the perspective of a young high school girl, it takes you on a journey into the invisible lines that we all draw in this world, and how those lines shape and define all of us, no matter our age. She tells a fantastic “story behind the story”…full of insight into the human condition, delving way beyond the black and white words on the paper. Nowlin writes very intelligently, and it is so well crafted that it feels almost artful in its composition (foreshadowing, etc). I lost myself in this book – laughed out loud and cried real tears….Highly recommend!!!!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 6, 2014

    If he had been with me

    It is a very good book i recommend this book you need to read it!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2014

    Excellent Read!

    This is the best book I have read in a while. I loved the characters and genuinely cared what happened to them. Unlike a lot of teen novels these days, this one felt so realistic. These characters could very well have been me and my friends.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 28, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    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.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 20, 2013

    Beautifully tragic

    This is one of those books that draws you in and has you gripping at every detail. I found myself easily drawn to the characters who were personal and relateable. It is an ever lasting love story and so much more. I highly recommend.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 6, 2014

    A great read for fans of If I Stay. Some of the jumping around i

    A great read for fans of If I Stay. Some of the jumping around in the time sequences gets confusing at times but I really got emotionally sucked in by this book. It is classified as a teen book and it is, but I would put it in the 16 and up category due to sexual content.

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