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If He Had Been With Me Book Summary, Review, Notes


“If He Had Been with Me” is a poignant and introspective novel exploring the complexities of teenage relationships, love, and regret. The story unfolds through the eyes of Autumn, who reflects on her evolving relationship with her childhood friend, Finny.


Their journey from childhood friends to something more is marked by missed opportunities and unspoken feelings. Tragically, the novel culminates in a heart-wrenching ending where Autumn grapples with the consequences of their unexpressed love and the devastating impact of Finny’s untimely death.


Book Title: If He Had Been with Me
Author: Laura Nowlin
Date of Reading: November 2023
Rating: 8/10

Table of Contents

What Is Being Said In Detail:

First part of the book


In this part, readers are introduced to Autumn and Finny’s deep yet unacknowledged feelings for each other. Despite being best friends since childhood, there’s a clear emotional distance between them, underlined by Autumn’s introspective narrative. The chapter sets the tone for their complex relationship.


Second part of the book


This part delves deeper into Autumn’s feelings and her perception of the world around her. It highlights her sense of isolation and her inner struggles, contrasting with Finny’s seemingly carefree demeanor. The chapter also introduces other significant characters and relationships in their lives.


Third part of the book


This part portrays a pivotal moment in Autumn and Finny’s relationship. A mix of tender and awkward interactions suggests their deep connection and the unspoken romantic tension between them. This chapter captures the essence of their evolving relationship.


Last part of the book 


In the final chapter, the tragic climax unfolds with Finny’s death, leaving Autumn to confront her grief and guilt. The chapter is emotionally charged, reflecting on what could have been and the permanence of loss. It’s a poignant end to their story, emphasizing the impact of unspoken love.


There are thematic parts that the book covers:

Love and Friendship: 


The novel intricately explores the blurred lines between deep friendship and romantic love. Autumn and Finny’s relationship, rooted in a lifelong friendship, gradually evolves, revealing unacknowledged romantic feelings. Their journey is emblematic of the confusion and intensity of teenage emotions, where love often exists in a liminal space, unrecognized or unspoken.


Regret and Missed Opportunities


A prevailing theme in the novel is the idea of regret, particularly concerning missed opportunities and unexpressed feelings. Autumn’s introspection and retrospective narration are tinged with a sense of longing and remorse for what might have been if she and Finny had acknowledged their feelings for each other. This theme highlights the importance of seizing the moment and expressing one’s emotions before it’s too late.


Growth and Self-Discovery: 


The transition from adolescence to adulthood is portrayed through Autumn’s experiences and internal struggles. The novel captures the essence of growing up, marked by self-discovery, emotional turbulence, and the realization of life’s impermanence. Autumn’s journey is as much about understanding herself as it is about understanding her feelings for Finny.


Impact of Loss and Grief: 


The novel poignantly addresses the impact of loss and grief. Finny’s tragic death acts as a catalyst for profound change in Autumn’s life, forcing her to confront her feelings and the reality of living without her lifelong friend. The narrative explores how loss can irrevocably change a person and how one copes with the aftermath of an unexpected tragedy.

Laura Nowlin Quote

Most important keywords, sentences, quotes:


“I’ve loved him my whole life, and somewhere along the way, that love didn’t change but grew. It grew to fill the parts of me that I did not have when I was a child. It grew with every new longing of my body and desire until there was not a piece of me that did not love him. And when I look at him, there is no other feeling in me.”


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 savor this wonder, this happening of loving a 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 ever again.”


“I love him in a way I cannot define, as if my love were an organ within my body that I could not live without yet could not pick out of an anatomy book.”


“Stay I whisper to him. Stay in the car. Stay in this moment. But of course he never does.”


“Perhaps he would ask me what books mean to me. I would tell him that it means living another life;”


“And it’s impossible to say and even harder to feel.”


“I want to savor this wonder, this happening of loving a 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 ever again.”


“I can see some of the roses still blooming in my mother´s garden. Brown on the edges and bright in other colors, their petals drooping downward, dying just as their lives have begun.
They stayed past their time, and I´ve realized that I have too.”


“I tell myself relationships are hard work. No one is perfect. There’s no such thing as happily ever after.”


“Like most of my stories, it will end tragically.”


“I could close my eyes and believe that we have never been apart. I could invent a new past to remember.”


“I know that you know I’ve been in love with you for forever. You don’t have to pretend.”


“I’m sorry for kissing you.”
“Don’t say that,” I say. “Don’t say you’re sorry for that.”


“Are you sure you still would want to if you were sober?” I say. Finny nods. “Yeah,” he says again. “But I’m only telling you because I’m not.”


“My mother named me Autumn. People say to me “Oh how pretty,” and then the name seems to glide away from them, not grasping all the things that the word should mean to them, shades of red, change, and death”― Laura Nowlin, quote from If He Had Been with Me

Laura Nowlin Quote 2

Book Review (Personal Opinion):


“If He Had Been with Me” is an emotionally resonant novel that beautifully captures the nuances of teenage love and regret. The author skillfully portrays the depth of unspoken feelings and the impact of missed opportunities.


The characters are well-developed, making their journey both heart-warming and heart-breaking. The novel’s ending is particularly powerful, leaving a lasting impression on the reader. However, the pacing sometimes feels slow, focusing heavily on internal monologues.


Overall, it’s a compelling read for those who enjoy introspective and emotionally rich narratives.


Rating: 8/10


This book is for (recommend):


  • Readers who appreciate novels about teenage love and complex relationships.
  • Fans of coming-of-age stories with an emphasis on character development and emotional depth.
  • Anyone interested in exploring themes of unspoken love, regret, and the impact of choices on one’s life.


If you want to learn more


To delve deeper into themes similar to “If He Had Been with Me,” readers may explore works focusing on young love, the transition from adolescence to adulthood, and the impact of loss and grief. Additionally, reading books by authors like John Green or Jandy Nelson can offer similar emotional depth and exploration of complex relationships.


How I’ve implemented the ideas from the book


The novel’s portrayal of the significance of expressing feelings and the consequences of not doing so serves as a reminder to be more open and communicative in personal relationships. It encourages the importance of valuing the present and not taking relationships for granted.


One small actionable step you can do


Reflect on your personal relationships and consider if there are feelings or thoughts you’ve left unexpressed. Take a small step by initiating a conversation with someone you care about, sharing your thoughts or feelings that you’ve kept to yourself. This can strengthen your relationship and ensure no regrets about unspoken words.


If He Had Been With Me Book - Summary-Infographic