Who I Was With Her is a gripping coming-of-age story about grief, guilt and learning to be honest with yourself. We meet the main character, Corinne, at the very moment that she learns that her girlfriend Maggie has died in a car crash as her word shatters. Since Corinne has never let anyone know that she’s bisexual and involved with Maggie, she’s completely lonely in her grief, and struggles with her loss as well as her regrets for never going public like Maggie wanted to. Going into this book I was so sure I was going to love it and expected to cry and get my heart totally broken for the main character. But sadly, even though I enjoyed this story a lot, I didn’t connect enough with Corinne for it to blow me away as much as I had hoped for.
This book was a raw and beautiful exploration of grief, the pressure of coming out and putting a label on yourself and learning to accept yourself. It also had some really great representation (I especially enjoyed Corinne’s friend Julia and the authentic and respectful way her struggle to understand why she wasn’t interested in sex like “everyone else” was described) and I really appreciated the way this novel explored how different coming out stories can be. But still, I felt like I kept waiting the whole book for it to start hurting, for something to happen that would break me, but that never came.
My main problem was that I didn’t connect with Corinne the way I had expected. One reason for this was that we get to know her when she’s experiencing the biggest loss in her life. The flashbacks to her past with Maggie helped, but I still feel that I didn’t really know or connect to the ‘real’ Corinne and she came across as a bit one-dimensional. But another reason was also that she felt so selfish at times. I understand that she feared coming out and didn’t want to do it for someone else’s sake. I fully agree with this, but I still feel that perhaps she could have dealt with things in another way. Especially when it comes to her best friend Julia, I feel that she didn’t treat her the way a true friend should. But on the other hand, I really thought it was problematic the way Maggie’s brother Dylan called Corinne a coward for not coming out and how Elissa put pressure on her and making ultimatums about not going back into the closet for her sake. I would have liked for the author to take a clearer position here, now the combination of these views and Corinne’s guilt for not coming out as Maggie wanted to risks conveying the wrong message to readers who might be questioning themselves and struggling with how and when and if to come out.
Another thing that I found problematic in the book was Corinne’s mother’s alcoholism and the irresponsible way her father brushed it off. Especially one scene when Corinne calls her dad for help when her mother has passed out drunk and he just puts all responsibility on his teenage daughter, made me so angry.
But overall, this was a beautiful and important book about grief and acceptance that I recommend anyone to read for the premise and representation. This novel address important issues that are always good to see more of in YA literature and I am definitely curious to read more of Nita Tyndall’s books ahead.
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