Title: When You Were Here
Author: Daisy Whitney
Release Date: June 4, 2013
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (Hachette Book Group imprint)
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.
When You Were Here is an emotional and moving tale of a young man's search into his mother's life. There is grief and loss and family, but also death and love, and how utterly confusing the two are.
Danny is a mix of messed up emotions. He's broken, depressed, listless, and with no sense of direction, no idea of what to do next. There is no emotion in him, apart from anger at the world, affection towards his dog, and confusion towards his sort of ex-girlfriend. It's like his mother was an anchor in his life, and his memories of her aren't enough to hold him down to continue on with his life.
Love and death have a way of going hand in hand in life. They are both completely confusing, hard to understand, and unmistakably irresistible. We can't escape either of them. We love, we die, the ones we love die, our love for others die. But why are love and death so important to the human condition? Why do we base our lives on them, why do we both run from them and run towards them? Is the challenge of trying to understand them that pulls us in? Or is it that, without them, life would be meaningless?
After his mother's death, Danny's at a loss and is unsure of where to go next. Losing someone takes a lot out of you, it leaves the world feeling incomplete, like you're not sure how to navigate the place you've always lived in, a place you know like the back of your hand.
Danny is searching for reasons why his mother died, but he never expects to learn lessons in love, life, and letting go. The world is far from perfect, there will be pain and loss, but you have to think of the good times, you have to do what makes you happy. You have to love life and love those in your life like nothing else matters.
(I received an advance copy of this title to review from Hachette Book Group Canada.)