If He Had Been with Me: the romantic novel’s ending, explained

If He Had Been with Me

Released in 2013, If He Had Been with Me by Laura Nowlin is a romantic novel about teenage love, loss and friendship. Let’s see what the novel is about.

Spoilers Ahead!

A story with a dramatic beginning

The novel is narrated by its protagonist, Autumn, a recent graduate from school who is talking about an accident and argument. Not hers, but her best friend Finny and his girlfriend Sylvie’s. A car which skids off the rainy road. Autumn is begging him to stay in her narration- where, we don’t know.

Autumn tells the readers what happened, the events of ‘Before’, when she and Finny were inseparable and the events leading up to the accident.

Autumn and Finny’s connection

Of the same age, born with just a week’s difference, Autumn and Finny are best friends, of two best friend moms. While Autumn has a dad who is off working, Finny’s dad is married and prefers writing child support checks.

Ever since babies, Autumn and Finny have been a pair, doing things together and needing no other friend. He defends her and she confides in him. With family dinners, sleepover and holidays celebrated together, they are as close as friends can be.

A sudden growing apart between them

Over the years, as Autumn joins a group called The Clique, made up of popular kids and girls, she and Finny grow apart. All her time goes into doing things with the girls. But that soon stops when she decides not to go into cheerlead like them. She and her friend- Sasha- are excluded all of a sudden.

She and her, embracing their peculiarity, form their own close-knit group with friends who resonate and are happy with it. The group soon forms couples and Autumn pairs of with Jamie, a handsome sweet boy who loves taking care of her.

On the other hand, shy Finny joins that popular group, which astonishes Autumn. Moreover, he starts dating Sylvie, a quintessential popular girl.

Moving through school and growing up

The two groups co-exist in their school. Aware yet ignorant. The kids grow into teens and so does their relationships and friendships. Jamie talks about getting married to Autumn, promising to never leave, and Autumn soaks up the reassurances, seeing the fragile state her parent’s marriage is in.

She wishes to become a writer, but Jamie feels it can’t be her full-time career. In their relationship, she doesn’t let them sleep together, not going in with the peer pressure. Jamie is frustrated but agrees. She asks him to wait till after graduation.

Overall, the group is experimenting and discovering themselves. Autumn feels she loves Jamie, but one day, letting herself reflect in the past, she is faced with a revelation. That she loves Finny. Always have. She remembers the night in middle grade when Finny kissed her, when she didn’t know what to do and they grew apart.

But she buries these feelings deep inside her and stays with Jamie.

Senior year in school and multiple happenings

Senior year is full of changes and personal growth. Finny and Autumn have become cordial to each other due to their gym class together. So much so that he warns her not to sleep with Jamie while drunk.

Soon, prom comes and they all rejoice. Then, after the stress of exams, they finally graduate. A few days later, Jamie says he’s coming over, and Autumn believes it’s about the promise they made to sleep together. But as he comes, it’s not what he was here for.

He’s there to break up with her, citing she’s too much and too needy, especially her depressive phases- which occur heavily during winters. The most important part was that he says he and Sasha have discovered feelings for each other and even slept together a few weeks before prom. Autumn cuts ties with both.

Finny and Autumn connect once again

Upon her break up, Finny helps Autumn and they go out for lunches and movies. They spend time together with Sylvie touring Europe. They rekindle their friendship and feel at ease with each other. Autumn completes her incomplete book and lets Finny read it. It’s loosely based on their story.

Finny confronts her why she left him so suddenly and she apologises, says she was stupid and selfish. They talk about it and finally kiss. They kiss like long lost lovers and they make love. So desperate that they go without protection.

Sylvie is coming the next day and Finny has already planned on breaking up with her. The next day, it’s hard for them to go apart but Finny wants to wait no longer. Autumn still wants him to stay. He promises to come back.

Later that night, her mother comes and sobs.

The ending and what happens next

Finny died that day. His car skid on the road and Sylvie went flying out of the windshield. Finny was wearing a seatbelt. The roads were wet, he goes out to check on her and gets electrocuted by a torn power line in a puddle where he puts his hand.

Autumn doesn’t go to college that year. In the days between their birthdays, she finally attempts suicide in his room. She wakes up in the hospital and gets to know she’s pregnant. That Finny wouldn’t want her to take a life. She believes that eventually, things will turn out how they’re meant to.

Emotional and raw with a tragic scene already set out, you are going in bare and ready to be wrecked. The ‘what if’s’ which were a part of Autumn become the part of the reader’s mind.