Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Review: When You Were Here

WHEN YOU WERE HERE
Daisy Whitney
Contemporary Young Adult
264 pages
Little, Brown
Available now
Source: Tour for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
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.


MY THOUGHTS
When You Were Here is a slower story, one that doesn't leave us breathless and panting at the end but instead affects us in subtle ways that have no physical manifestation, though we feel its strength just the same. Danny's tale is akin to a watercolor painting – a few significant strokes are made, but they then spread out, crawling into the crevices and grooves of the paper of their own accord, slowly and inexorably changing the entire face of the artwork with their quiet bleeding. There's no dramatic action or epic battle with a villain, instead the colors of Danny's life creep outward after the initial strokes of his mom's death and the breakup with his girlfriend are swept across the paper, and we have the pleasure of watching as they take on a life of their own and create a beauty he would have never anticipated.

Danny is understandably in a bad place when we first meet him, finding it difficult to care about much of anything and popping Vicodin and Percocet with relative ease, but he's not so deep in a depression-lined hole that we can't reach him. He decides to take action rather quickly, returning to the city he and his mother loved to spend time in the most, and instead of simply wallowing there amidst the remnants of their life together, he goes out, asks questions, tracks down places she loved, and starts trying to find the peace his mother seemed to both so easily embrace and exude. Being in Tokyo isn't a miracle cure for him though, and while attempting to treat known wounds he inadvertently opens new ones, but part of healing is the acknowledgement of what is ailing, and Danny handles the revelations about his mom's life and his own life with admirable maturity and a refreshing lack of self-pity of any kind.

One of the highlights of this story is Danny's troubled relationship with childhood-friend-turned-girlfriend Holland, the pain of their abruptly terminated romance even more poignant than that of losing his mother, the questions surrounding the how's and why's of their breakup eating away at us page by page. His mother's death is of course prominent, but it's surprisingly not the aspect that reaches deep into our chests and squeezes our hearts tight, instead that action lies with Holland and the new fragility between her and Danny that seems as if it will simply break at any moment, shattering a young man already cracked wide open.

Those readers looking for a read that's not meant to keep them up late at night reading with its drama and action will likely thoroughly enjoy When You Were Here, the journey Danny embarks on one meant to be walked and fully absorbed rather than run and glimpsed in passing. It's luckily not as heavy as it could have been given the subject matter, and Ms. Whitney does a beautiful job of giving Danny's story due gravity without leeching all of our happiness as we read, infusing it with a great deal of hope and showing us all the possibilities that spring up in the wake of tragedy.

Rating: 4/5
 

Find Daisy


This book was sent to me by the publisher free of charge for the purpose of a review
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.

39 comments:

  1. Oh I want to read this one!!!! I didn't look at this book twice until I read the first review. Until then I wasn't aware that first) It was written from a Boy POV and 2) it plays in Japan. It sounds like a great read, thanks Jenny!

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    1. I really enjoyed this one Danny! There are definitely some big issues in it, but it didn't feel overly heavy, and I liked the way Danny sorted himself out after his mom passed.

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  2. I'm so glad you enjoyed this one, Jenny! I read a few mixed reviews and was a bit worried but I think you summed it up beautifully with your painting metaphor. I also received an ARC of the book and can't wait to read it. Beautiful review as always. :)

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    1. Can't wait to see what you think Rummanah!

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  3. I'm so looking forward to reading this book, the review so far are so amazing. I love that it;s not very heavy, but subtle and slow-growing leaving the reader well satisfied by the end. I won a copy and can't wait to dig in. Great review, Jenny!

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    1. It's definitely not going to be a book for everyone, but I thought it was a really beautiful story and I just loved seeing how Danny tried to get back on track after getting so brutally knocked off.

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  4. Not as heavy as it could be, yes then maybe I could read it then. I do not want too heavy

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    1. No, I didn't think it was too heavy:)

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  5. I had mixed feelings about this one as I both really loved some aspects and other points, such as the wealth and the ease of certain situations because of money, I didn't love so much. I'm so glad to see you enjoyed it so much, though, Jenny. Great review!

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    1. I don't read too much contemporary, and I was just really in the mood for this one Keertana! There were of course some flaws like the one you mentioned, but overall I was pleased with it:)

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  6. I have this one in my TBR pile as well and I am so glad to hear that while it moves more slowly it is worth the read.

    Once again, gorgeous review!!

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    1. I definitely think it's worth the read! Yes, it could be slow at times, but there was a lot going on in Danny's head so I felt like the slower pace suited the story:)

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  7. Oh, I'm so glad you liked this one, Jenny. It really, really resonated with me, and even the slow pace didn't bother me. How did you feel about Holland's character and that reveal? Wonderful review, Jenny :)

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    1. I was super surprised by Holland's reveal. That is not at all what I anticipated having caused their breakup, but I liked how Danny dealt with it:)

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  8. I got this book some time back, but I haven't read it yet, but your review makes it sound so wonderful, Jenny. I'll be reading it as soon as I can. Danny sounds like a character who is going through a lot, but it does seem like he does grow throughout the book. Looking forward to reading this one!
    Beautiful review, Jenny! :)

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    1. He definitely is going through a lot, and he does some things in the beginning that I wanted to shake him for, but he doesn't linger long in that place, but instead moves forward and takes us with him:)

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  9. Im glad you liked this one....I actually started it and just lost track of it, weird but I never picked it back up. :( Ill have to finish it up this summer.

    Tina~

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    1. I can see how that would happen. It was easy for me to put down and do other things, but I did always keep coming back. I wanted to see how things with Holland would work out!

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  10. Hmm, I think I'm going to love the emotions in this story. Glad you like the story. Thanks for sharing your review Jenny!

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    1. I thought it was a beautiful story Savy:)

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  11. Really lovely review, Jenny! I remember having this as one of my Wow months ago and I definitely thought it was emotional but it was the Tokyo setting that had me really wanting to read it. Haha. I'm glad to hear though that it wasn't really that dramatic and stressing yet could still reach you deep down. And Danny seems like a really admirable character especially with how he handled things and developed here. I'll have to read this soon. :)

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  12. Amazing review Jenny! I absolutely loved how you wrote it. Its interesting to see that the girlfriend lost hurts more. I'm glad this book has Danny who is strong during his ordeal despite his depression.

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  13. This is one of the books that I've heard some great things about. I love to read books where characters had some troubles in past and they're struggling. Amazing review Jenny and I can't wait to read the book :)

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  14. I love that you say you were fully absorbed while reading this one. That is always something that I look for. I don't always need a breakneck pace to keep me sucked in, just a good story that I can lose myself in. Need this book!

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  15. It's weird but I see the word cancer on the blurb and I run away from the book. I think it's time I got over this and picked up the fault in our stars ...

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  16. Another gorgeous review from you! Sometimes I prefer books that are subtle and more careful and not a breathless read. It makes it easier to dig deeply into a character that way. I've read so many glowing reviews of this one and I am now even more eager to get my hands on this story. Plus I love books with travel and I'm very excited about the Tokyo setting.

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  17. I've been curious about this one. I do like Whitney's writing. (Her book coming out in September, STARRY NIGHTS, is also quite quietly wonderful. +HEA)

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  18. I just finished this and loved it. It is definitely a quieter read, and I was quite surprised at how the story unfolded, it definitely wasn't what I expected. I'm so glad you enjoyed this too, and found it an absorbing and hopeful read, because that was my experience too. Beautiful review Jenny! :-)

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  19. That watercolor analogy was just beautiful, Jenny. Even though I am feeling a bit overloaded on all these dramatic contemporary reads, this is one I would like to try.

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  20. Now this is a kind of read I might have passed if not for your review. I would be thinking.. "tissues!"... uh, no way... and then you had to write that great review. Darn you! Now you know I must read it. PLUS you had to give me a watercolor analogy didn't you??? *sigh* You have me... I'm so adding it to the wishlist. Bad blogger! ;)

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  21. First off, I love the name Daisy. It's so cute! This one sounds like a sweet read...one I'm not sure I'm emotionally capable of right now. During the summer, I tend to regress, demanding action-packed books or light summer reads. It's a problem. But I'll put it on my list for when I grow up!

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  22. Wonderful review, and sometimes this is exactly the kind of book I am looking for. Not high on drama but one that you close and reflect on, wonderful review!

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  23. As always, I didn't even bother to find out what this was about. I just took one look at the cover and decided; 'not for me'. It's great to get your thoughts, though! I'm glad that there's actually some hope and happiness, and that is isn't too much of a heavy read. I'm not always too keen on those, especially not in the summer. Lovely review, Jenny!

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  24. I don't know...I'm a little afraid that the issues may be too big for me...but then...I have read a few issue-ish NA books lately and did suprisingly enjoy them....

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  25. Beautiful review, Jenny--loved the watercolor comment. I had a client whose mother died just before graduation and what pain that caused in his life. Having to deal with your mother's estate when you're that young? Horrible.

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  26. I've seen some mixed reviews for this one, but the fact that you enjoyed it makes me think I would, too. I like that the romance is between him and a childhood friend so there's some foundation there. I would think Tokyo would be a lonely place for an American grieving because of the language barrier. I think it would give an interesting spin to the story, though. I'm intrigued. Wonderful review, Jenny. :)

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  27. I've really been wanting to read this one. I know it's not for everyone, but I still have that urge. I love male POV's for one, but this just sounds really interesting to me on all aspects.

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  28. I haven't seen this one but it sounds really sad, though you're review makes it seem like the author did a good job with it. Glad you enjoyed it!

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  29. I feel like this one could be a real tear jerker and I have to be in a specific mood for that. I am glad you enjoyed this one. You are the second person (whose opinion I take notice of), who has given this book a high rating. I'm moving it up.

    Thanks so much,

    Sara @ Just Another Story

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