Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Review: If He Had Been With Me by Laura Nowlin

If He Had Been With Me by Laura Nowlin
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Publication date: April 1st 2013.
My rating: 5 stars


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.

If He Had Been With Me was a poignant story which I devoured in one sitting. It’s a story which deals with issues of friendship, first loves and family in the most raw and intense way I have come across in a long time. It was a story which I knew how would end, but I was utterly mesmerised into reading because of the beautiful heart rendering prose. 

The story opens with the most heart breaking chapter, it gives you an insight into how things end. Despite knowing this I continually tried to bury this awful fact at the back of my mind, I kept trying to make myself believe that the author would change the course of the story and that maybe she was just playing with us. So it came as no surprise that when the ending did finally come, I found myself choked up all over again.

If He Had Been With Me deals with the story of what ifs. Autumn and Finn had been best friends forever, they did everything together, until middle school, that they fell apart for some reason or another. Despite their mothers being best friends, and being neighbours, there was always that awkward tension between them when they spent “family time” together. Also they hung out with friends who were on opposite sides of the spectrum to one another, so were seen to never mix or interact with one another. Despite having a great set of friends and boyfriend in Jamie, Autumn’s regret over the loss of her friendship with Finn is clearly apparent. At first it’s like a niggling at the back of her mind, which she continues to throw away and just focus on the good things happening in her life at the moment, but the further she goes through school and seeing Finn all the time bring several feelings of anger, betrayal, love, and loneliness which are continuously eating away at her until it all becomes too much. What would have happened if Autumn and Finn didn’t grow apart? Would things have been different now? It’s these constant thoughts that Autumn can’t shut away. 

The Story is told with flash backs into Autumn’s and Finn’s memories when they were younger alongside Autumn’s current progression in school, some readers may find confusing. But I thought these alternating changes in the time span worked wonderfully. The stories were timed right as to show their significance into why that memory had a specific impact to why Autumn was the way she was today. It gave a better understanding into Autumn’s character, and a connection between her in a deep and meaningful way. Some readers may have got frustrated with Autumn’s decisions, but if I were in her shoes I don’t think I would have done it any other way. She had to battle through a lot in this story, and I think she dealt with it the best way she could. 

Nowlin focused on many dark and tough issues in this story, issues of depression, family problems and loneliness were explored in depth. What made these issues more realistic was that they weren’t just touched upon once, but they were followed upon Autumn’s progression through school and clearly showed an important part of the type of person Autumn became. I liked how despite their differences Finn was the one who could constantly ground Autumn, the one she could turn to when she needed the most. Her friends were also a supportive bunch, and I enjoyed the fun they had and the time they spent together, but one particular point which I didn’t expect at all, blemished my high opinion I held of some of them. 

If you’re worried about giving this book a try because of the heart breaking story please don’t because Nowlin’s gorgeous prose is not one to be missed. Her writing was littered with several beautiful passages and was delicate yet purposeful with each word puncturing a hole in my heart. Despite being a complete mess a few days afterwards and constantly asking myself how and why Nowlin would do this to me. I am sure that He Had Been With Me will remain as one of my favourites reads for a long time to come. 

My feelings for this book are perfectly summed up by this gorgeous quote: 

“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”

 

32 comments:

  1. I have been eagerly anticipating your review for this book ever since I saw it in your Showcase Sunday! You've got me all excited for the release of this book; it sounds like a gorgeous read that will tear at your heart strings! I really want to meet this Autumn character and watch how she grows. I'm curious on how the author devastates you from the start. Eep I need to find myself a copy! Beautiful review, Jasprit! <3

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  2. Wow this really sounds like a heartbreaking story and I love these. I haven't seen this book before but now it goes on my to-read list :) I'm glad you enjoyed it so much. Great review Jasprit :)

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  3. I can't wait to read this one! Sounds amazing!

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  4. Oh Jas, this sounds like an amazingly emotional read and now I can't wait to read it. It's always hard when you start off knowing what is going to happen but it's a good sign when despite that, you're still invested in the story and hoping it will change.

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  5. I'm glad you liked it. I'm reading it right now and it's pretty interesting.

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  6. This book sounds very emotional and heartbreaking. Thank you for your review. And you're right, I'm a little bit worried because it sounds so sad, but I'm a sucker for a good story so I definitely want to read it.

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  7. This sounds sooooo good! I need to read it, like right now! I'm adding it to my TBR list. I hope I like it as much as you did. :)

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  8. I had no interest in reading this (I haven't even heard much about it!), but you've completely changed my mind now. I can't resist a book about friendship, no matter how heartbreaking. I know I can sometimes shy away from more poignant stories, but they usually always win me over in the end. I'll have to definitely give this a shot now. :) Thanks, Jasprit!

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  9. This sounds like an intense read! I'm afraid to read this now because it might just break my heart.

    - Ellie at The Selkie Reads Stories

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  10. Such a beautiful review, Jasprit. I've had my eyes on this title for some time now and I'm so glad to hear this worked so well for you. I will definitely go into the book not expecting an HEA so I don't up flooding my room! It seems like such a raw and intense read.
    Lovely review, Jasprit!

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  11. I skimmed the story details b/c I'm read IHHBwM very soon. I can see though, how much you loved the story. This makes me so happy, Jasprit!

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  12. This one sounds right up my alley. I am on a huge contemporary kick lately and the darker contemporaries are definitely my favorite. When a book draws emotion from you, you know it's good. This one has been on my radar ever since the cover reveal and I can't wait to finally get it. I think I would really like how it jumps from time to time, that method works when the story still seems cohesive and from what you said that jumps are very well placed. Fabulous review, Jasprit!

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  13. "Despite being a complete mess a few days afterwards and constantly asking myself how and why Nowlin would do this to me."

    Okay, I just finished a book that left me just like this last night, so I need a little break before I can pick up another one like it, but the emotionally intense and beautifully written stories always captivate me and end up being the most memorable. This is one that needs to be on my list for sure. A list that is getting a little out of hand, but I don't even care. This has to be on it! Gorgeous review Jasprit!

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  14. Wow. This book sounds fantastic! Autumn sounds like a really good character, and I'd really like to find out how she and Finn grew apart. It sounds so heartbreaking!! Beautiful review, Jasprit. <3

    Loves,
    Megan@The Book Babe

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  15. I'm not such a fan of most contemporary books, but sometimes I come across an interesting book: this is one of them. I've been keeping an eye on this one for a while now, because of the promise and the pretty cover. I'm so happy it delivered! I love it when books have gorgeous passages :)

    Mel@thedailyprophecy.

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  16. I have had a couple of tough emotional read lately but I am always excited to see five stars and I love that it has gorgeous writing. I am all about beautiful writing. I am becoming a big fan of Sourcebooks, I just finished one from them last night. Anyway this just sounds like a beautiful book that I need to check out. Thanks for the recommendation!

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  17. Glad that you enjoyed this one more than I did. I couldn't get into the writing at all the clipped sentences and no contractions really got on my nerves and I had to DNF it. I'm sure it was more of an "it's not you, it's me" situation though. You do make it sound like a really great book if you can handle the prose. Great review!

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  18. Wow, another 5-star review for this book! The only thing reviewers seem to disagree on is whether or not they like the writing style, but I can understand that. No matter, it sounds like a great story that really tugs at the heart. I do want to read this one day! Great review. :)

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  19. I find the way a book is written the most important factor in if I will love a book. I'm glad the writing made this book special and speak to you. Wonderful review Jasprit!!!!!!

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  20. That's a beautiful quote... thanks for sharing! I'm not into reading something dark and depressing right now but this one surely sounds amazing. Loved your review, Jas!

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  21. This is a difficult book to read, it was hard for me to look at the cover and read the premises and not be a little sad. I'll definitely keep it in my when I'm in a mood for dark contemporaries. Great review, Jasprit!

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  22. Wow, I'm so glad this book resonated with you, Jasprit! I love the cover, but it sounds like such a dark and deep tale as well. I definitely think I'll check it out now. Amazing review, dear!(:

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  23. You have me really, really scared to try it...but making me really, really want to. It sounds like a wonderful story and I love ones that break my heart and make me FEEL something. However, it sounds so similar to a situation in my life right now that it's very possible that I will bawl like a baby. But I'm definitely TBRing it :) Great review!

    Sunny @ Blue Sky Bookshelf

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  24. I bought this book, thanks to your endorsement. :) Looking forward to reading it and thanks for the wonderful review as well.

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  25. 5 stars? Wow. Sometimes, two different timelines do work beautifully if done right, and it seems that Laura handled it very well. You know how I am about contemporary, but I actually like the sound of this and I'm off to add it to my tbr.
    Thanks, Jasprit!

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  26. The first time I saw this cover I knew I had to have the book. Then I read the blurb and it was so intriguing and tragic at the same time. You sold me at: "beautiful heart rendering prose."
    Great review!

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  27. Great review! Thanks for sharing your love of this book with us. Excited to read it when I get the chance. :)

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  28. I don't think I could read this. Even the blurb sounds heartbreaking. Great review though hun and I'm glad you enjoyed it :)

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  29. Such a lovely review, Jasprit! You have me convinced to give this book a try! I love that this book seems to be about the friendship between a female character and her male best friend. I also love stories that question what could have been within their pages. That sounds pretty vague, but those kind of stories usually search for deeper meanings and explanations and are very thought-provoking, and this certainly seems like it would fit the bill. And I do love that quote!

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  30. I'm so desperate to read this book Jasprit! I requested it on Netgalley but so far no response, have your fingers crossed for me! I love the sound of everything about this book, amazing review!

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  31. This sounds emotional! I need to get ahold of it eventually.

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  32. I'm glad you enjoyed this one hun, not sure I'd read it. I don't deal well with highly emotional books well! Lol Lovely review.

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