“If He Had Been With Me” by Laura Nowlin is a poignant and deeply emotional young adult novel that explores the themes of love, friendship, identity, and the roads not taken. Published in 2013, the book tells the story of Autumn and Finny, best friends since childhood who are on the cusp of graduating high school. Their inseparable bond is tested as they navigate the complexities of growing up, the confusion of romantic feelings, and the pressures of impending adulthood. The narrative delves into the heartache of unrequited love, the pain of growing apart, and the tragedy of lost opportunities, making it a touching exploration of the transition from adolescence to adulthood.

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If He Had Been With Me Summary


Autumn and Finny have always been together, living next door to each other, sharing every aspect of their lives. As they grow older, their relationship becomes more complex. Autumn starts dating Jamie, and Finny is involved with Sylvie, but deep down, Autumn harbors feelings for Finny that she fears to acknowledge. The novel is set against the backdrop of their senior year of high school, a time filled with the anticipation of future possibilities and the nostalgia of leaving behind the familiarity of childhood.

Plot Summary

The story progresses through the milestones and everyday moments of Autumn and Finny’s senior year, capturing the intensity and confusion of teenage emotions. Autumn struggles with her identity and where she fits in outside of her relationship with Finny. Despite their deep connection, there are things left unsaid between them, leading to misunderstandings and tension.

As the year goes on, Autumn and Finny’s paths start to diverge. Autumn feels left behind as Finny starts making plans that don’t include her. The arrival of new relationships and the pressures of planning for college create further distance between them.

The climax of the novel is heart-wrenching, as a tragic accident changes everything. In the aftermath, Autumn is forced to confront her feelings for Finny and the reality of their relationship. The tragedy brings a painful clarity to the complexity of their bond, highlighting the significance of their friendship and the depth of their unspoken love.


“If He Had Been With Me” is a tender yet tragic exploration of the nuances of friendship and love, particularly the kind that exists on the border between the two. Laura Nowlin expertly captures the voice of adolescence, filled with longing, uncertainty, and the intense desire to be understood. The novel speaks to the universal experience of growing up and the painful realization that sometimes love is not enough to keep people together.

The story also delves into the theme of identity, as Autumn navigates her sense of self both in and outside of her relationship with Finny. It examines how the paths we choose and those we don’t define us, and how the most significant moments in our lives often come from the most unexpected circumstances.

If He Had Been With Me Summary

Notable Quotes

  • “If he had been with me, everything would have been different.”
  • “I think it is human nature to be curious about the roads not taken.”

Similar Books

For readers moved by the themes and emotional depth of “If He Had Been With Me,” the following books might also resonate:

  1. “Eleanor & Park” by Rainbow Rowell – A story about two misfits falling in love over one school year, dealing with themes of first love and the struggles of teenage life.
  2. “The Fault in Our Stars” by John Green – A novel that explores love and loss through the relationship of two teenagers who meet in a cancer support group.
  3. “Looking for Alaska” by John Green – Focuses on a group of friends at a boarding school and the impact of an unexpected tragedy on their lives.
  4. “My Life Next Door” by Huntley Fitzpatrick – A romance that blooms between two teenagers from vastly different backgrounds, exploring themes of family, loyalty, and the choices that define us.

“If He Had Been With Me” stands out as a profound narrative that captures the bittersweetness of adolescence, the pain of unrequited love, and the irrevocable impact of tragedy on young lives. Through Autumn’s journey, Laura Nowlin offers a heartfelt examination of the complexities of human emotions and the indelible marks they leave on our lives.

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