Rock Road staff member, Laura Nowlin recently published her first novel called "If He Had Been With Me," which will be released on April 1st. If you're looking for a teen novel with surprising depth and emotional impact, this one is for you. The interweaving of the familial problems of divorce, depression and expectations combined with the normal drama of high school take this novel to the "next level."
Remember high school? Not the high school you remember through rose colored glasses, but the real thing. The complicated, annoying, derisive challenges that keep cliques alive and stereotypes thriving. Nowlin shines here as she showcases the true high school experience, not a "glee-esque" facade. Various complications test the relationships of characters as we experience these four years with Nowlin's fully expressed cast. Even supporting characters have fully actualized personalities and storylines. This is especially refreshing after reading other teen novels. No disposable characters here. Nowlin has no paranormal crutch or distopian future to hide behind. As we watch these years come to an end, Nowlin transitions easily in to post-high school life. She fluidly shows how those barriers fall away in favor of relationships as characters grow out of their old lives and into new ones. Her characters begin to make up their own minds, setting out on their own paths. Nowlin's subtle plot twists lead us to an unexpected and dramatic conclusion. The delicate use of foreshadowing pops up occasionally, leading the reader down a path that is both beautiful and tragic. We know where we are going, but it is still a shock when we get there.
"If He Had Been With Me" is quite an experience. With a debut like this, I can't wait to read Laura Nowlin's next novel. I'm just not sure if I'll find it in the teen section or if she'll take the leap to adult fiction. Based on writing like this, she's definitely ready to cater to both audiences. Support local talent and check it out today!
--Mary G., Rock Road Branch