3 Sentence Summary
In “If He Had Been With Me,” Laura Nowlin takes readers on a journey through the highs and lows of Autumn’s life, from high school to post-graduation. The story explores the complexities of friendship, love, and the challenges of navigating relationships. Through Autumn’s perspective, we witness her struggles and choices as she tries to find her place in the world while reconciling her feelings for her ex-best friend, Finny.
Summary Read Time: Less than 5 minutes
Actual Book Length: 336
First Published in: 2013
Below is the detailed yet quick If He Had Been With Me book summary:
Autumn, the protagonist, ruminates on a tragic car accident involving her childhood friend, Finny, who was embroiled in an argument with his girlfriend Sylvie. She firmly believes the discord was centred around her. She then takes us back four years, to the onset of high school.
The friendship between Autumn and Finny, two children of inseparable mothers and next-door neighbours, begins to wane in high school, thanks to the new dynamics of their peer group. Autumn, along with her friend Sasha, creates a fresh social circle, wherein both girls develop a fondness for a boy named Jamie, who eventually reciprocates Autumn’s feelings.
As the story progresses, we see Finny and Sylvie kindle a romance, which Autumn reluctantly witnesses while they share their daily wait at the bus stop. Despite the changing tides at school, Autumn and Finny’s familial bond sustains, though now permeated with unease, as they keep up the tradition of holiday celebrations with their families.
In an interesting turn of events, Autumn commences a quirky practice of donning tiaras daily. Initially met with mockery and indifference, this unique penchant eventually garners the support of her friends, who contribute to her tiara collection on special occasions.
Sophomore year in high school thrusts Autumn and Finny into the same honors English class, exacerbating Autumn’s discomfort at witnessing Finny’s liaison with Sylvie. Adding fuel to the fire, a conflict ensues between Autumn’s and Sylvie’s friend groups over a coveted lunch table, finally abating when Autumn challenges Finny. With Finny backing down, peace is restored.
In their Junior year, the friends experience the thrills of gaining driver’s licenses, marking a shift in their adolescent lives. Finny’s flashy new sports car, a gift from his father, adds a dash of extravagance. Autumn, though she doesn’t secure her own license, enjoys the convenience afforded by Jamie and Finny’s newfound mobility.
Around this time, she acknowledges her feelings for Finny but concedes that Sylvie holds his heart. Nonetheless, she remains devoted to Jamie. On the brink of adulthood, she chooses her preferred college, eschewing teaching to pursue her passion for creative writing. Interestingly, Finny opts for the same institution, while Jamie decides on a different one, promising a long-distance relationship.
Senior year sees Autumn and Finny grow closer as gym partners. The Halloween party, attended by Finny with Sylvie in tow, acts as a platform for mending some of their differences. However, this period also witnesses the unraveling of Autumn’s parents’ marriage and the pregnancy of her friend Angie, causing shifts in relationships.
Autumn finds solace in Jamie, only to learn post-graduation about his burgeoning love for Sasha, her friend. This discovery leaves Autumn at a crucial crossroads in her life.
Part 3 – How Does If He had Been With Me End?
As summer unfolds, Autumn finds herself grappling with depression. Fortunately, Finny reenters her life, becoming the beacon of light she needs in her darkest hour. Their friendship reignites and they finally unburden their concealed feelings. Autumn channels her sentiments into a novel, triggering Finny to respond in kind, culminating in an intimate moment. The day before Sylvie’s return from Europe, Finny resolves to personally break up with her.
Tragedy, however, strikes during the confrontation between Finny and Sylvie. In the middle of a heated argument in his car, he loses control, leading to Sylvie’s ejection from the vehicle. Finny’s attempt to help her is abruptly halted when he steps into an electrified puddle caused by a downed power line, leading to his instantaneous demise.
Overwhelmed by grief, Autumn attempts suicide. However, during her hospitalization, the prospect of carrying Finny’s child gives her a newfound reason to live, echoing the joy Finny had expressed while holding Angie’s baby.