Book Review–When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney


This is the 58th book from my 200 Book Reading Challenge.

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When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney
Published June 4th, 2013

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 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’m a huge fan of Daisy Whitney. I couldn’t put her first book, The Mockingbirds, down. It took me about four days to read this book, and while it wasn’t one of those I-can’t-stop-reading stories, I still loved it.

When You Were Here is a beautiful and raw story about a teenage boy who has lost his mother to cancer. Poor Danny is also still reeling from the fact that she didn’t live long enough to attend his high school graduation as well as dealing with his ex-girlfriend, who he is still head over heels for. When graduation ends, Danny makes a decision to venture out to Tokoyo, where his family, particularly his mother, loved to travel. She had spent a lot of her last times there searching for a cure and now Danny wants to know what happened there.

While the story itself is original, it’s really the characters that make this book. Daisy did an amazing job with Danny, the main character. Sometimes female authors have trouble making a male POV sound realistic, but I didn’t feel this was the case in this book. Danny was an easy character to like, even when he was troubled. Having lost family members to different cancers, it was easy to emphasize with him. There were times where I wanted to hug the poor boy.

I also really liked his ex-girlfriend, Holland and it was easy to tell why Danny had fallen for her. While I didn’t “love” her mother, who also happened to be Danny’s mother’s best friend, I admired her for her strength and compassion. Through the flashbacks and memories, I also grew to adore Danny’s parents, particularly his mother. Kana was simply adorable, and I loved every scene that she and Danny were in. They had the kind of “friend” relationship that makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside. And obviously, the same can be said for Sandy Koufax and her relationship with Danny.

The second thing I adored about this book was the setting. I have never traveled outside of the US, but the settings of Tokoyo were so well described that I practically felt like I was there. It sounds like an amazing place to visit. The setting of L.A. was also described well.

The book took me on some surprising adventures and spilled some heartbreaking revelations. The characters and plot caught me completely by surprise. When I started this, I knew that I would like it based on the writing style and POV of Danny alone, but I never imagined how awesome this book would be. If there were flaws, I don’t recall them.

I cannot wait to read the next book Whitney has to offer (Starry Nights!).






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