fiction · YA

Book Review: Who I Was With Her by Nita Tyndall

Secret time!

In high school, I had a terrible, terrible crush on this guy. It wasn’t something anyone really knew about; while we later became friends due more to circumstance than anything, I couldn’t even speak to him, couldn’t hardly look at him, my anxiety was so terrible. But hoooooooooo boy, did I like him, for years. And, because anxiety is so much fun, my brain worried about how I would cope if the unthinkable happened and he died. How would I manage my grief since no one knew how much I had liked him? How would I get through daily life carrying all that pain that no one had any reason to suspect I had? When I heard about the premise of Who I Was with Her by Nita Tyndall (HarperTeen, 2020), I gasped; someone had written my book, or a version of it! Immediately it went onto my TBR.

Who I Was with Her starts off with a moment of shock: Maggie is dead, a fact Corinne overhears from her cross country teammates, and which throws her into a full-blown nightmare, because Maggie was her girlfriend, a girlfriend no one knew she had. They’d been dating for a year, and, living in the south, Corinne hadn’t been comfortable coming out. She’d already had a lot on her plate, adjusting to living in a new place, her newly divorced parents, her alcoholic mother. Adding her community’s homophobia onto the pile felt like it was too much, so Corinne kept her bisexuality and Maggie under wraps.

But now Maggie is gone and Corinne’s grief is all-encompassing, but what do you do with grief no one knows you have? As Corinne begins to navigate life without Maggie, she gets to know Maggie’s brother and her ex-girlfriend (an ex Corinne had no idea existed), and she begins to confront some hard truths about who she is, what she wants, and what it takes to live authentically.

What a sad, heavy book, one that I’m so glad exists. Corinne is a complicated character; she has a lot going on in her life, and she doesn’t always make the best decisions, for herself or for others, but the decisions she makes are entirely understandable, given the context of what she’s been through the past few years. At times she can be selfish, but that’s what happens when your emotional needs aren’t taken into consideration by your parents; you’re forced to focus on yourself in order to survive. I dealt with some similar issues to Corinne when I was in high school and it still affects me to this day, so Corinne absolutely resonated with me.

The grief in this book is nearly tangible. Compound that with college stress, parent stress, school stress, sports stress, friend-group drama, and you have a main character who by all means should have been on the edge of a complete breakdown, but she does her best to hold it together, with not-always great outcomes. The book ends on a hopeful note; Maggie is obviously gone and never coming back, but Corinne has learned about herself, learned to advocate for herself, and has learned to be more honest, and she’s set for a better future. The pain is still there, but she has more tools to handle it, and the strong writing carries this to a bittersweet conclusion.

Who I Was with Her is a raw, honest book, one that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Visit Nita Tyndall’s website here.

Follow them on Twitter here.

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