Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Review: When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney

When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney
Release Date: June 4, 2013 
Publisher: Little, Brown 
Source: Publisher for Review via Netgalley 
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.
I wanted to love this book so much. I began this book almost three weeks ago and I just finished it yesterday. It took me forever to like the book enough to finish and even though the middle of the book got considerably better, I’m not the biggest fan of When You Were Here. I loved Daisy Whitney’s previous two books but I wasn’t able to care for the characters in this book as much as I had hoped to.

Danny is a very hard character to care for. In the beginning, he's angry and sad and confused and self centered. It's understandable of course. He lost his dad to a freak accident, his adopted sister left the family and now his mom is gone. Plus, he's only 18 and he's had to deal with a lot. I think for me, the thing was that I've never been in Danny's situation. People say that everyone grieves differently and while someone (like me) can accept that, connecting to the character can be hard. Surprisingly, it wasn't until Danny came to Tokyo that I began to truly care for him. He began to let go of his anger and resentment and opened up to new possibilities.

There were two other characters I cared about When You Were Here: Danny's mom and Kana, Danny's friend in Tokyo. Danny's mom is dead by the time this book begins but all of the times she's mentioned, I loved her. A big aspect of this book [is when Danny learns that his mother lived as happy as she did before she died because she understood when it was her time to live and her time to die. it wasn't as dramatic as I thought it would be and I appreciated that.] Kana's introduction was a breath of fresh air. Kana is talkative and outgoing, something Danny isn't at the moment. Their relationship was platonic and I LOVED that. Kana was someone Danny didn't know so it was much easier for him to open up to her.
Holland, the only girl Danny's ever loved and a rather large part of the plot, was a girl I didn't care for. [35% in and I was still not in love. The constant reminder of Holland made me realize that her story line isn't simply Danny's first love. I guessed that it was a surprise pregnancy and I was right. Turns out, Holland got pregnant with Danny's baby, had the baby early, and the baby died. Everyone, including Danny's mom and even Kana knew about the baby. It was so incredibly out of character for Holland in my opinion. If she truly knew Danny as well as she thought she did, why didn't she tell him about their baby? Honestly, I think this baby plot line didn't need to be included.


My only other aspect I didn't like was the fact that by the end of the book, every issue had been resolved. Danny seemed to be over his mom's death, he and Holland had figured things out, Kana and Holland got along, Sandy Koufax (his dog) was with him. The ending had a sense of hope but it wasn't the hope as in "things will get better." It was the kind of hope where everything ended perfectly and would hopefully continue to be so.

Overall, I enjoyed the middle aspect, majority of which is set in Tokyo, much more than everything else. I loved Kana and Danny's mom and while it took me a while, I warmed up to Danny. I appreciated the mature feel to this book and it's a testament to Daisy Whitney's growth as a writer! While I found a lot of the plot to be predictable and aspects I felt to be unnecessary, When You Were Here was one of the best books about grief I've read! I can't wait to read what else she haas to offer!
Cover Comments: 
Can I have that cover? I LOVE it so much! I love that we can't really see what the guy looks like but the burst of sunlight hiding his face is a great addition!