Review: When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney

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.

–back cover blurb of When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney

This book was absolutely beautiful. It’s a story of finding oneself after loss, and I feel like just everything is so wonderfully portrayed.

Pretty soon in the book it becomes evident that Danny is the valedictorian of his graduating class, something that would be very exciting to most seniors, but how could it be exciting to him when no one he cares about is their to witness it? His father died six years ago in a car accident, his mother died two months ago from cancer, and his sister is across the world.

To Danny, one option makes the most sense–get a one way ticket to Tokyo, the place where his mother seemed to be the most content before her death.

I was so unsure of what to expect from this book, but the first sentence caught my attention, and with each word the tale became increasingly more beautiful.

The characters were vibrant and fun. It was easy to feel what Danny was feeling, which sometimes was heart wrenching and other times was great. Kana was quirky, and I always looked forward to the next time that she and Danny would meet up.

It was also nice seeing a YA book set in such a different setting. It isn’t often that you see a book in a modern day setting set in Tokyo.

I would give this book 5 out of 5 stars. Overall it was a fun, refreshing read.