REVIEW: When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney

when you were here books keep me saneTitle: When You Were Here

Author: Daisy Whitney

Genre: YA contemporary

Release Date: June 4th 2013

Purchase: Amazon (Hardcover or Kindle)

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Filled with humor, raw emotion, a strong voice, and a brilliant dog named Sandy Koufax, When You Were Here explores the two most powerful forces known to man-death and love. Daisy Whitney brings her characters to life with a deft touch and resonating authenticity.

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 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.

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I have read a lot of contemporary novels before but When You Were Here really stands out. The blurb was really intriguing that’s why I immediately picked it up.

When You Were Here is a story about Danny, a teen whose mother died of cancer a couple of months before his graduation. His mother was fighting cancer for years just to see his son come up on stage and give his valedictorian speech, only to come eight weeks short. Needless to say, Danny was devastated and he didn’t know how to go on with life. But he wanted to find out what his mother was like a couple of months before she died. So he took a plane to Tokyo to find pieces of her mother’s life in Japan.

I like idea of this book venturing the topic of love and dealing with death. Love and death always go hand in hand. And different people deal with death in various ways and I like how Whitney showed us how a teenage guy deal with the death of his mother.

I am a lover of the Japanese culture and it was such a delight to see Japan in the eyes of a westerner. Whitney did a great job of showing and describing the scenery, the culture and the atmosphere of  Japan to people who hasn’t been to the country before. You can really tell that the author did an in-depth research about the country. I can almost feel like I am with Danny in his excursions in Tokyo.

I am used to contemporary novels set in the USA so this novel was very refreshing to read because the majority of the scenes in this book was set in Japan.

My heart really goes out to Danny and all the hardships he has to go through with life. But nobody said living life is a piece of cake. It really sucks when your parent dies. And then there was this huge plot twist later in the story which I totally didn’t see coming. Boy, Danny’s life sure is messed up.

The character that really caught my attention was Kana. Based on her letters I thought she was this prim and proper Japanese high school girl. But I didn’t expect her to be so witty and funny and vibrant. And I love her insane fashion sense too. She’s like the whole fun and bright Japanese culture rolled into one person. I badly want her to be a real person and be my best friend. With Kana, there is no dull moments, she will always brighten up your day.

When You Were Here ensnared my heart. There were scenes in the book that really tugged at my heartstrings. Whitney really captures the essence of dealing with grief. The book had the right combination of Danny’s angst as a teenager and melancholy. Overall I think When You Were Here was excellently written, it’s so engaging and relatable and my heart goes out to the characters and the ordeal they are going through. It’s a novel you shouldn’t miss.

“Because this is what I believe – that second chances are stronger than secrets. You can let secrets go. But a second chance? You don’t let that pass you by.”

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