“But Julia doesn’t know that. None of them can know that; none of them can know we were dating.
“Corrine are you ok?” Julia asks, but I can barely hear her because all I can think is Maggie, my Maggie, is dead, and none of these girls will ever know what she meant to me.”
Who I Was With Her is a story about grief. Corrine is struggling to come to terms with her girlfriend’s unexpected death, especially since she cannot tell anyone she is grieving. Her relationship with Maggie had been a secret one, even though they’d been together a year; only Maggie’s brother knew and he is angry with her for the way the secrecy of their relationship hurt his sister. Corrine isn’t out to her family; she is struggling with her feelings and sexuality and scared of how people will react if they know. She is already dealing with a fair amount of (unfair) slut-shaming and she doesn’t want to have to deal with biphobia too.
Corrine is a really self-absorbed character. It’s not entirely surprising given she is a teenager and the girl she loves is dead, but it is a lot at times. It annoyed at times, like when she went to Maggie’s house to pick up her sports kit, without thinking that perhaps her grieving parents might not want to hand it over to someone they didn’t know was a significant part of their daughter’s life. I thought the way Maggie’s brother handled this was brilliant. It’s not easy to be inside her head where absolutely everything is about her and she forgets that those around her have feelings too, but also where she is deeply grieving, questioning everything about herself, and developing feelings for someone knew. She is a messy character, but in a good way.
Corrine is also facing some family problems with her mum: her parents are separated, her mum drinks a lot and misses the important things in her life. It is hard to read about how difficult she finds it. She is also struggling to be open with her best friend Julie; they are both hiding things from each other, but I loved seeing them work through this and how things changed for them both when they were able to open up.
Who I Was With Her is split into to parts: before and after Maggie’s death. This is not uncommon for stories about grief, and I love that it lets you get a glimpse into the character’s lives before. I loved seeing how Maggie and Corrine’s relationship developed, how they were both in different places with being “out” and how they navigated this tricky aspect of their relationship. I really felt for Maggie being kept a secret when she just wanted to show off her girlfriend to the world.
Nita’s writing is compelling, it kept me turning the pages because I needed to know more. For a book about grief and loss, this is surprisingly fast-paced and a lot happens in a relatively short space of time. You really get the sense that life doesn’t just stop because you’re mourning. It is a brilliant novel. Definitely one I would recommend if you also love a good story about grief.