March 18, 2014

When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney (review)

Title: When You Were Here
Author: Daisy Whitney
Release date: June 4, 2013
Publisher: Little, Brown
Genre: YA contemporary, Romance, Realistic Fiction
Buy on: Amazon | Book Depository | B&N

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.

Danny is a guy who lost quite some in his life. His father has passed a few years back and before graduation he also lost his mother due to a many year battle with cancer. Contact with his adopted sister is barely there. The only contact they really have is between emails every week, though it feels to him more like a scheduled time to talk than to real interest shown by her. And then there is Holland, his ex-girlfriend who suddenly broke up with him and vanished.

To discover more about his mother and her battle with cancer he flies to Tokyo to their apartment to talk with the people there and most of all her doctor. In a country where he barely speaks the language he finds out all about secrets his mother kept and he needs to figure out what to do with all the new information.

I have to admit, it was for me a bit difficult to get through in the beginning. I wondered where the story was really going to and I found it a bit annoying that there were two plots in the book namely the death of his mother and the break up with his girlfriend. When I was about two-third into the book it finally started to make sense a bit and the two storylines came in together, though at that point I wasn't completely feeling the book anymore.

The part in the book that interested me the most was the death of his mother and the secrets she kept and when picking up the book I thought that was what the book was going to be about. Then the confusing part of Holland (the ex-girlfriend) came into play and I was just wondering if that plot was really necessarily. I have read books where writers just put in romance with no real reason and it felt like it was the same case in this book.

A think I really liked about the book was the setting. I think it was very well done and I really felt like I was in Tokyo (which is a place where I've alway wanted to go, so bonus point for that). 

Then a thing that annoyed me a bit; that the main character didn't really feel like a guy to me. In my mind I kept picturing a girl and then they got called 'Danny' again and I had to keep switching to a guy. It didn't feel that real to me.

I still don't really know what to give this book, but I am going to settle on 3.5 hearts, because the setting was great and I did like the storyline of his mother and figuring out who she really was which was a big part of the book.

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