If He Had Been with Me by Laura Nowlin | Summary, Themes & Analysis

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Laura Nowlin’s “If He Had Been with Me”, a young adult contemporary romance novel, explores the complexities of friendship and the long-lasting effects of sorrow. The story’s narrator is a senior in high school named Autumn, who has been closest friends with Finny since they were little.

The two have never explored a romantic relationship despite spending their formative years together and having a close bond. The present-day chapters of the book alternate with flashback ones that describe their friendship’s past and the circumstances that led to their current predicament.

Book TitleIf He Had Been with Me
AuthorLaura Nowlin
Publication DateApril 2, 2013
GenreYoung Adult, Romance
Main CharactersAutumn and Finny
SettingSmall town in Indiana
ThemesFriendship, love, loss, guilt, forgiveness, coming-of-age
StylePoetic, introspective
Reception“If He Had Been with Me” received generally positive reviews for its realistic portrayal of young love and its exploration of complex emotions. Readers praised the poetic writing style and the well-drawn characters.

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As the narrative opens, Autumn considers the reality that Finny is no longer a part of her life. She does not know his whereabouts or what he is doing because they last communicated years ago, which prompts her to reflect on their shared childhood past and the occasions that helped forge their connection. She recalls how they connected over their shared love of the book “The Giving Tree” when they first met on the first day of kindergarten.

Autumn and Finny became closer as they got older. They spent much time together fantasizing about their futures and exploring the forests behind their homes. Despite their closeness, they never sought a romantic connection, and Autumn always thought they would be best friends for life.

As kids start high school, everything changes. Autumn feels like she is losing Finny as he drifts away from her. She also copes with her issues, such as the aftermath of a tragic party incident and her father’s passing. She thus begins to distance herself from her pals and is increasingly lonesome.

Autumn is working at a neighbourhood grocery shop when she encounters Finny for the first time in years. The wave of memories that rush back to her is shocking and overwhelming. Although they start to spend time together and reconnect, the past continues to follow them. While Finny is coping with his issues, Autumn is still struggling with her father’s death and the fallout from the traumatic event.

As they spend more time together, Autumn and Finny address the feelings they have been denying for years. Both of them know that they have been in love since they were young but are too shy to admit it. But they also understand that pursuing a romantic relationship now is pointless. Finny is leaving town to attend college, while Autumn still suffers from the tragic occurrence’s effects.


As the book ends, Autumn and Finny part ways and declare their undying love for one another. They acknowledge the uniqueness of their friendship and the special place it will always have in their hearts.

One of the main themes in “If He Had Been with Me” is the idea of missed opportunities. Due to their commitment to maintaining their friendship, Autumn and Finny never discussed the possibility of a romantic relationship. They ultimately missed out on the chance to spend time together. The book also discusses grief and the many effects it has on people.

Autumn still grieves her father’s loss as Finny battles his problems. Both characters find it difficult to relate to one another because of their constant battles with the impact of terrible events.
The notion of time passing is another motif in the book. The characters undergo a lot of change throughout the story’s several years. Their priorities have changed due to Autumn and Finny being at various stages of their life. The work also emphasizes that they might drift away even if two individuals were previously highly close.

About the Author

American novelist Laura Nowlin was born in 1985 in Illinois. She attended Missouri State University to study English and creative writing after growing up in a tiny town in Illinois. She travelled to New York City after graduating and worked as a literary agent there for several years before returning to Illinois to concentrate on her writing.


What is the book “If He Had Been with Me” by Laura Nowlin about?

In the young adult book “If He Had Been with Me,” Autumn and Finny, two of their childhood closest friends, reunite in their final year of high school. The narrative examines topics of friendship, love, grief, and our decisions.

What age group is “If He Had Been with Me” appropriate for?

As a young adult book, “If He Had Been with Me” is usually suitable for readers ages 14 and above.

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