Laura Nowlin → If He Had Been With Me


Page Count:


Content Warning:



Physical Book

Parental Abandonment, Suicide Attempt, Car Accident, Mental Illness, Alcohol Abuse

Book Description

Autumn and Finn used to be inseparable. But then something changed. Or they changed. Now, they do their best to ignore each other.

Autumn has her boyfriend, Jamie, and her close-knit group of friends. Finn has become that boy at school, the one everyone wants to be around.

That still doesn’t stop the way Autumn feels every time she and Finn cross paths, and the growing, nagging thought that maybe things could have been different. Maybe they should be together.

And as time passes, Autumn realizes she might not get another chance to make things right before it’s too late.

In The Shadows Of Regret: Reviewing Laura Nowlin's Emotional Rollercoaster

Laura Nowlin wrote her book and published it in 2013 not knowing that 10 years later she would be pushed by the growing fandom to write the second part of her book If He Had Been With Me. This novel is an intricate portrayal of teenage identity, friendship, love, and to a certain degree parenthood.


If He Had Been With Me has been read by many BookTok readers and has been deemed a true roller coaster of heartfelt emotion altogether.


Autumn is our storyteller, who struggles with finding her own identity, what she likes, what she dislikes, who she wants to spend her time with, and who she misses the most. Her love for books and her desire to write is something that, however, doesn’t waver.

I know, I know, I know, I know. If he had been with me, everything would have been different.



Nowlin does not disappoint with her introduction to the novel. I was so hooked by the aura of the first few pages, that I could not stop for the night and read 100 pages until I had to push myself to go to sleep.


Autumn is a teenager who has been friends with Finny for as long as she can remember. Their mothers are best friends and neighbors. In the process of growing up, they both find each other drifting apart for a reason only revealed to us towards the end of the story.


Autumn goes from being the it girl to becoming something slightly different through her high school journey. She starts dressing diversly and wearing tiaras on her head. Most would think that she is someone to be avoided, someone who shouldn’t be liked. However, she ends up making friends that will accompany her throughout high school, one of whom will be her boyfriend Jamie.


Not only experiencing a long-lasting journey of self-discovery, Autumn finds herself struggling with the ideal of a perfect girlfriend. All her female friends are in relationships and have already lost their virginity. Autumn decides not to rush. She is looking for the perfect moment which ends up being something she may or may not overdramatize throughout her relationship with Jamie. She views her perfect moment as something that simply cannot be real with Jamie. Is that something that has to do with Jamie? Yes!


I know that someday I will die, and I know that someday I will lose my virginity; these two things seem equally probable, equally impossible.


He is frustrated and sometimes too pushy. He wants something and is sometimes desperate to get it. So desperate that towards the end of their relationship, when Autumn is struggling with her mental health, he ends up sleeping with her best friend, Sasha.


The effect he has on Autum though is something that made me extremely angry. Why would she give up so much of herself just to be with someone?



“Doesn’t sound like you at all,” he mumbles. “Teaching, a house, kids. What happened to the turtlenecks and coffee?”

“That was a dream,” I say. “I have to accept reality.”

Accept when things are as good as they’re ever going to get, I mentally add but do not say.



Her mother’s mental illness, her father finally leaving, finding out about her feelings towards Finny, dealing with the fact that she cannot say anything about them, her boyfriend cheating. These are all things that keep Autumn on the edge of breaking down. However, she shows unimaginable strength. When she struggles, Finny ends up helping her up and finally allowing himself to share his feelings for Autumn.


They have one obstacle though. Sylvie. Finny’s girlfriend. He has to wait for her to return from Europe to let her know that he wishes to break off their relationship. He waits. And when the moment comes he leaves the house.


And to my surprise and sadness, as well as Autumn’s, he doesn’t return.


Finny ends up having a deathly car accident with Sylvie, on a rainy night, while they argue, he loses control of the car.


Finny dies. Autumn this time truly breaks. Before leaving she has allowed herself to lose her virginity to her childhood best friend and the man she loves not knowing that she will become pregnant.


How she finds out?

Through her inability to deal with Finny’s death, Autumn tries to take her own life. Her attempt fails and she ends up in the hospital, where she finds out that she is pregnant.


The first book ends with Autumn still in the hospital and us readers hoping for a second part of the story where we may be allowed to find out more about Autumn and Finny. What happens after his death? What was his take on everything during this emotional journey? What happened to Sylvie?

This book has been a true journey of emotions, however, I also have a point of critique which I would like to mention.


I adored the beginning of the book and the tension Nowlin has created for me in the first few pages. I was waiting for more of that, more story, more feelings. However, the beginning and end of the book have been the most tension-filled parts and the most emotional ones. The middle seemed too slow with very little taking place. Four years of high school in which not that much happens have taken over most of the book. Was it too much? For me, at times, yes. I would have needed a bit more maybe at the middle of the book. It truly seemed as if Nowlin was teasing in the beginning and then giving nothing for a very long time all the while shooting every weapon there is in the universe of books in the last 10 % of the book. For me, that wasn’t fair because I had no time to process anything and felt broken down in the end after being thirsty for so long. Was that an effect she wanted to achieve? Maybe. Did I like it? Not really?


Nevertheless, this book had so many topics which are perfect for the coming-of-age stages of life. I remember having some similar feelings that Autumn experienced during my own high school period. I loved the connection that could be built with Autumn throughout the book.


I would bet all my worth that her love for books made all of us scream while reading.

Nowlin’s book has been with me for an entire week since I also had other engagements to tend to. It was an interesting week and I appreciate the fact that this book is so relatable. This story kept me hooked and its end did not disappoint. I also loved Nowlin’s writing style and general character build.


Despite my critique, I have to say that I would read this book again and it will be one of the books that I will try to develop some student sessions and material with in the long run. I hope my future teenage students will enjoy this as much as I did and take away something from its valuable life lessons. At least I will try to get them to that point.


Character Development

Writing Style







Emotional Impact

About Laura Nowlin

Laura Nowlin has emerged as a noteworthy voice in the realm of young adult fiction leaving a noticeable mark with her debut novel If He Had Been With Me.


Nowlin’s writing has been praised for its emotional depth and authenticity, resonating with readers who appreciate heartfelt narratives that capture the challenges and joys of adolescence.

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