With or Without You

🐞 🐞 🐞


Caroline Leavitt

Algonquin Books

August 4, 2020

288 Pages


Simon is a former quasi-famous rock musician, now older and less popular, but still desperate to feel fame again. Stella is his long-time girlfriend. She was his OG roadie back in the day, following him on every tour, but now she works as a full-time nurse and longs for a more stable life. Simon is about to get his second big break (so he says) opening for an up-and-coming band out in California. He wants Stella to come with him, but Stella isn’t feeling it. They get into a big fight, drink too much, and eventually take some pills to calm down. The next morning, Simon wakes up, and Stella doesn’t.

For the next few months, Stella is in a coma, and Simon is forced to step up for once to care for Stella and do all the little (but vital) household tasks he used to ignore. He’s desperate for Stella to come back to him, but when she finally emerges from her coma, she’s changed in ways neither one of them expected. They both need to decide who they are now and if they still belong together.


What an interesting and unique premise for a book, right? I was really drawn in by the description of With or Without You, and I wanted to love it. Unfortunately, the book fell flat for me in a number of ways. My biggest grievance is that I didn’t really like any of the characters. Simon, ugh, don’t get me started. Stella, for half the book, wasn’t much of a character at all, though I have to say I kind of loved post-coma-Stella. She may have been confused and a little lost, but at least she finally felt authentic. There’s a third main character, Libby, who is Stella’s friend and coworker, and I did enjoy her backstory and story arc, but I needed more. I never felt like I got a good grasp on who she was.

In the end, this was a drawn out half-story. The potential was there, but I needed spark—either a character I could relate to, a faster-paced story, more deeply-developed characters, more connection in the end. Just…something. I wouldn’t recommend reading this book, but I probably would give author Caroline Leavitt another chance.

Thank you Algonquin Books and Net Galley for the ARC!

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