If He Had Been With Me

First Lines: I wasn’t with Finny on that August night, but my imagination has burned the scene in my mind so that it feels like a memory.

I got this for Christmas last year, if I remember correctly.  And, like I do almost every book I own, I kept putting it off for library books or something.  It just finally got to the point where I had to read it.  It had a high rating and I wanted to know if it was really that good.  I have read it.  Cue the marching band.

Since mystery is kind of a big part of this book, I want to copy the summary: I wasn’t with Finn on that August night. But I should’ve been. It was raining, of course. And he and Sylvie were arguing as he drove down the slick road. No one ever says what they were arguing about. Other people think it’s not important. They do not know there is another story. The story that lurks between the facts. What they do not know—the cause of the argument—is crucial.

So let me tell you…

First of all, the characters were pretty spectacular.  Our narrator, Autumn, is a unique girl.  She has a lot of quirks and she doesn’t want to blend in with the rest of the students at school.  She enjoys being different and I liked her for being strong enough to embrace that.  I also really liked Finny.  Shy, easily embarrassed Finny.  I’m not sure he ever had an enemy.  He was just charming without even trying to be, and that was awesome.  He stole my heart.

The timeline of this story takes place over something like 6 years, which really helped develop the characters and the relationships between them.  I normally don’t like stories that do that (because they feel drawn out), but this was paced really well.  It’s like seeing snapshots of their lives, the highlight reel.  But it wasn’t too fast paced either.  And nothing was super suspenseful/exciting besides the ending.  But…that just made it feel more like life, the way it’s ordinary and moderately exciting a few times a year. Does that make sense?

There were some really good themes in this story, like how it’s ok to be different and be who you are.  Or like how you can be blind to things right in front of you.  There was enough time in the story to develop all of these really well.

But I’m really conflicted about what I think of the ending.  It was sad and beautiful and tragic all at once and Taylor Swift’s already written a song about that.  (Bad joke…)  I can appreciate it for how it changed the story, but it nearly destroyed the opinion I had of Autumn.  That sucked.  So I liked it, but I didn’t.

It really was a lovely story, in the end.  Great themes, great characters.  And it was really easy to read.  My only regret is that I can never ever ever keep it in a classroom without parents wanting my head on a pike.  Some topics…not school appropriate.

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2 thoughts on “If He Had Been With Me

  1. As an author it’s great to read specific kudos and critiques like these, even when they concern a book I haven’t read. I’m also curious which topics were not school appropriate.

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