Y’all, Daisy Whitney is one of my new favorite authors. FOR REAL I LOVE HER BOOKS, even though I have yet to read the sequel to The Mockingbirds. But, seriously, I INHALED When You Were Here and found myself eagerly g-chatting both Shanyn and Jamie, two of my favorite blogger friends, about the book as I was reading. I needed to process and to talk with people who just GET IT and luckily they were super supportive through all my OMGS and my BEST BOOK EVER and my OMG THE DOG. In case you are dense, I will TL;DR this review for you: I am in love with When You Were Here.
Danny is about to graduate high school as valedictorian of his class. This sounds great and wonderful, something to celebrate. Only, consider, his mom died a mere 8 weeks before graduation of cancer, despite wishing she could hold on for that long. To make matters even worse, Danny’s dad died 6 years earlier, so he is an orphan. He is not QUITE alone, his mom’s best friend Kate does her best to help care for him. However, last summer Danny dated her daughter Holland and it was great, only Holland disappeared to college without another word. So, he definitely has some angst to deal with and you know what I wasn’t like, oh this teenager with his pretend problems. Instead, I just wanted to swoop in and fix everything. I think that When You Were Here is authentic in that in real life, rarely do we have just one problem to deal with at a time. Instead, life is complex and messy and hard. So, anyways, Danny is going through some correspondence when he comes across a letter from Kana, a Japanese girl, regarding an apartment his mom had in Japan. So, Danny decides to head to Japan to decide whether to keep the apartment or not, and also because he believes distance will help him to heal.
Danny is a good kid. Seriously, he does some stupid things, but with all that is on his plate, he might as well play the dead mother and grieving card. Like, it sucks enough having one parent die, but with both gone I totally was willing to cut him some slack. I loved how independent Danny came across. Instead of curling up into a ball and dissolving, he was willing to go to Japan to put things in order. He was willing to get out there and unravel some of the answers to his mom’s death. And actually, now that I think about it, this book, When You Were Here did a fantastic job portraying Danny going through the various stages of grief. Anyways, Danny somehow wormed his way into my heart. I found myself actually caring for and rooting for him.
I love it when books have travel as a main theme. I truly believe that experiencing another culture or country can be balm for the soul. Doing something completely different and out of the norm can totally change you. It can also be very healing, I think. So, as Danny went to Tokyo, I was excited to experience the city through his eyes. He also had the best traveling friend ever – KANA. And no, there’s no romance between Danny and Kana, they just get along very, very well. So, anyways, Danny isn’t the type who goes to Tokyo then sits around doing nothing. Instead, he is out there experiencing things, trying new food, going to tea houses, and just LIVING. I loved that. I thought that shifting the setting to Tokyo was a brilliant way to experience and process Danny’s grief.
Of course there are some of you out there who want to know if there’s kissing. YES. YES there is! The romance in When You Were Here alternates between swoonworthy and shockworthy. It’s told through some flashbacks, which I thought were very well done. They didn’t feel trite or cheap. Danny’s ill-fated romance with Holland is one of the bigger plot threads. Straight up, I loved his love for the girl next door and the various unraveling of secrets and the reason why Holland left him without a single phone call. Basically, I love it when romances are complicated. And you know it makes me think of that quote about how if it’s meant to be, it will find a way. So, so true at least in the case of this book.
Basically, Daisy Whitney is an awesome contemporary writer. Her prose flows really well and I was honestly highlighting quite a few quotes on my kindle because they were very well written. And I felt that the book really spoke to me, even though Danny’s experiences are so far outside the realm of my own — in that both of my parents are still alive, my parents are broke whereas Danny comes from money, and I’ve never been farther than Canada. Alas. It still had some universal themes that I could pick up on and empathize and relate to. And you know, that’s where her talent lies, in making me actually care about some rich boy who already owns a house and a pool and an apartment in a foreign country at 18. Straight up, that’s talent.
Before I close out this review, I just want to say there is a dog in When You Were Here named Sandy Koufax. This dog is a total baller. Now, before you get scared and nervous because a dog is usually a harbinger of it’s own death, do not fear. THE DOG LIVES. And this dog makes quite an impact on the book and assists with the most perfect ending imaginable for Whitney’s book. For reals. Read it for Danny, but stay for Sandy Koufax.
Disclosure: Received for review via Netgalley
Other reviews of When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney:
Chick Loves Lit – “The moment I knew I would like this book is when the dog Sandy Koufax was described.”
The Perpetual Page Turner – “an intensely emotional book in so many ways”
The Nerdy Book Club – “an achingly, heartbreakingly, healingly incredible novel”
Books by Daisy Whitney: