When You Were Here – Daisy Whitney

It’s a semi-headless dude, but I still find the cover pretty.

Synopsis

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.

Review

This book was spectacular, and the blurb did not do it justice. Also, calling Kana “an almost-but-definitely-not-Harajuku girl” is a gross disservice.

Danny was such an authentic character. I am often hesitant when female authors write male protagonists, but he truly seemed like a teenage boy. In fact, everything about this book felt incredibly REAL. As I was reading, I thought, “This would make an awesome book,” only to remember that I wasn’t immersed in a real-life scenario, but already reading a book. The pages came to life — Tokyo came to life.

If you consider the many plot elements on their own (think of every possible “Situation” that could cause angst and strife in a teenager’s life and shove them all into one heart-wrenching story), it sounds incredibly far-fetched. And yet Daisy Whitney managed to weave all the elements together to create a believable story. I loved every moment. I burst into tears frequently. This will not be a book I forget soon.

Related Reading

  • On the Jellicoe Road – Melina Marchetta
  • Anything by Sarah Dessen
  • Anything relating to: close proximity to death (we’re not discriminating here — death is everywhere!), teenage/first love, teenagers doing things that lead to other “mistakes” (trying not to reveal a major plot point here), self-discovery, coming-of-age

Rating: 5/5

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