Monday, July 15, 2013

Review: When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney

When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney
Little, Brown Young Readers, 272 pages
US Release Date: June 4, 2013
Format/Source: ebook, via author's PR team - thank you!

Challenges: SARC 2013

Danny's mother lost her five-year battle with cancer three weeks before his graduation-the one day that she was hanging on to see.

Now Danny is left alone, with only his memories, his dog, and his heart-breaking ex-girlfriend for company. He doesn't know how to figure out what to do with her estate, what to say for his Valedictorian speech, let alone how to live or be happy anymore.

When he gets a letter from his mom's property manager in Tokyo, where she had been going for treatment, it shows a side of a side of his mother he never knew. So, with no other sense of direction, Danny travels to Tokyo to connect with his mother's memory and make sense of her final months, which seemed filled with more joy than Danny ever knew. There, among the cherry blossoms, temples, and crowds, and with the help of an almost-but-definitely-not Harajuku girl, he begins to see how it may not have been ancient magic or mystical treatment that kept his mother going. Perhaps, the secret of how to live lies in how she died.
-------------------Goodreads summary
Notable Quote
"Sometimes healing isn't about our bodies."
When You Were Here is an intense read, you guys. I have to be frank with you, because I feel like I need to warn everyone. You will cry. Your heart will get tugged and pulled and crushed right along with Danny. You will hope and learn to hope and open yourself up again, just like Danny.

I will say though that I personally have never gone through what he has (thankfully, and I know I’m so incredibly lucky to be able to say that). And I think because I couldn’t connect to these huge, tragic emotions on a personal level, it gave me a certain level of disconnect. Don’t get me wrong: Daisy’s writing is filled with things that made me feel every emotion ever. But there was still a certain amount of third-party syndrome for me, that gave me the feeling of being told a story rather than being a part of it. And I know that’s completely my own personal thing, but it did make me feel a little less towards this book.

However. Daisy Whitney’s writing and this story still made me feel SO many things, right to the very core and into my soul and the depth of my heart’s capacity. Reading this story made me want to tell everyone I’ve ever loved or had feelings for just what they meant to me, because who know when I won’t be able to. It made me want to reach out and connect and let myself love freely because it could all be ripped away or changed in an instant. And that’s a pretty strong reaction to a book.

I was a bit surprised at how quick of a read this was for me! Like I said, it’s heavy and intense and there’s such a range of emotions you go through that I feel like it would be one I have to set down, take deep breathes as I read through, give myself a minute to recover. But I read this in just over a day (factoring in work, commutes, that pesky thing of having to sleep and eat to live, etc.) and was super surprised that I was flying through it all.

I feel for Danny, so much. He’s kind of surly and very broken and so closed off to everyone, but I just wanted so badly to reach through all the walls he’s built and clutch him tightly to me. He felt so real, all of his pain and sorrow, and I honestly cried for him.  These characters are all written so well, so real, and I felt like I could know them in real life, too. Especially Kana, her personality just leapt right off the page and I felt like I could see all her colours and quirks right here.

I will say that the only character I felt a little lost with was Holland. I know what I’m supposed to feel towards her, but she was so pale compared to Kana and all the other characters. The others had such life to them, and Holland was just…someone I was supposed to take as part of Danny’s story. I wanted just a little more dimension to her. Even though…well, that’s a spoiler, but I know the thing that was supposed to. And it definitely gave her more – it just wasn’t enough for me.

Best part ever though? Sandy Kaufax, the dog. I don’t have a pet, but if ever to convince me to get one, it’s Sandy.
4.5 Stars
(PS. You can read an excerpt here!)


  1. This sounds like the type of book I'd love. I'm glad you enjoyed it and I'm glad to know that it's easy to get through.

  2. This book sounds so perfect for me, so I'm pretty surprised that I haven't read it yet. Hopefully soon! I love books that make you feel a bunch of different emotions. Fabulous review!

    -Taylor @ Reading is the Thing

  3. Loved it too! I can back up the crying part too. It took awhile for me to click with the book but once I did I loved it. Great review. :) ~Kristina

  4. I'm really excited to read this book! It sounds like the kind of contemporary I'd very easily fall in love with, if I'm being honest. Plus, I love that it's partly set in Japan - one of my favorite countries in the world!


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