Yesterday I started and finished an incredible book.
Earlier this year, I went to my local library and got a library card in an attempt to start reading more like I did when I was younger. Something you’ll discover about me, I am an extremely passionate writer. A big dream of mine is to get one of my stories published one day and my reasoning behind getting a library card involved this. I wanted to read more to get my head around the style of writing I wanted to develop and try to improved my skills by learning from others.
I have read multiple books since getting my card, but none of them stayed with me as much as the one I want to tell you about.
‘If He Had Been With Me’ was a book I saw on the shelf and was drawn to by the title, as it reminded me of the kind of title I’d choose for one of my own books, mysterious
and sounding like there’s an incredible story behind it. I read the blurb, then I put it down, then I picked it back up again and I’m so glad I did.
The book is one I had never heard of before (which greatly frustrates me because it is so wonderful) and the author, Laura Nowlin, was the same.
I’m not going to include spoilers in this, because this is a book that deserves to be read without already knowing what’s coming, but I will give you a brief outline.
The book, published April 2nd 2013, centres around the story of Autumn Lange, a girl from Missouri, and her childhood friend, Phineas Smith. It’s set over the course of 6 years and the ups and downs involved in the life of teenagers, who grew apart but never quite let go.
The story is truly beautiful and I’ve never read anything quite like it before. I can’t compare it to anything else I’ve read as I really do think it is far superior and way too unique for any kind of comparisons. It’s a story of deep friendship, first love that never leaves and the tragedy of ‘what could have been’s’. The characters have been created so carefully in a way that makes them so unique and so memorable. There are so many quirks that each character carries which to me, make them seem like much more than just characters.
Autumn is a character I liked from start to finish, which is rare, as unfortunately, female leads start to annoy me around the half way point in most novels. She is funny and quirky and relateable, carrying that weirdness that we all have a little bit of and wearing it proudly. Phineas is a character I immediately fell in love with. He is sweet and quiet and loving and just all around the perfect guy that you’re rooting for the whole way through. He is one of those characters that make you wish he were real and make you want to find your very own version of to love. The way Nowlin chooses to tell the story, with flashbacks and a unique time span, is what I believe created such a deep understanding of the characters and what makes readers to feel such a connection to them.
The underlying love story is incredible and one of the best I’ve read about and felt connected to in a long time. The feelings Nowlin manages to display through her incredible words left me in awe and I truly idolise the style she writes in and the way she can make me adore two people so much that aren’t even real. Her writing is honestly impeccable the whole way through and the way she skips time without you even realising that years are going by is very impressive. The way she writes is a way that encompasses you in the world she has created and makes you feel that connection to the story that not every author can manage to do. She even makes the more minor characters seem so alive and pours such realness into them that causes you to form strong opinions about every single one of them. I really cant believe that she isn’t a more popular author after reading this book and feeling the amazing power of her writing.
So many things stood out to me within her beautiful telling of this amazing story. The deep romance and incredible, delicately formed details that run throughout it. The careful use of techniques, like foreshadowing and pathetic phallacy that make the story seem so clever and show how much thought and intricate planning has been put into every line. And of course, the beautiful tragedy within it that breaks your heart, leave you in tears and makes you feel like it’s so much more than just a book.
Something else that wowed me about her writing is the way she touches on serious issues in such a subtle yet effecting way. Dark issues like depression and family problems were dealt with so tactfully and delicately in a way that can only be admired and appreciated.
I’m not usually one to say; “I couldn’t put it down” but genuinely, I couldn’t. I was so invested in the characters, the story, everything about it that I didn’t want to put it down until I had finished it, while simultaneously not wanting it to end. Finishing it was one of those bitter-sweet moments, when you’re so glad to know the end but so sad to have finished it, as well as being overcome with all the emotions that the ending made you feel. In the case of ‘If He Had Been With Me’, that was a lot of emotions. The kind of emotions that leave your mind constantly wandering back to the story for days and wondering “Why”.
I don’t want to say too much about the story as, as I said, it’s so much better when you have no pre-conceptions about what you’re reading. All I can say is it is 100% one of the best books I’ve ever read and is by far in my top 3 of all time favourites. I highly recommend it and I promise, you will not regret giving it a try. I cant believe it isn’t more widely talked about and that I never heard any buzz about it.
It’s 5 stars from me all around.
I’m eagerly awaiting her next release as I know this story is going to stay with me for a long time.
The beauty of it is astounding.
Until next time,