{Review and Giveaway} WHEN YOU WERE HERE by Daisy Whitney

Keep reading for your chance to win be 1 of 3 winners to receive your own personalized, autographed hardcover copy of Daisy Whitney's newest novel, WHEN YOU WERE HERE!

Check out reviews of Daisy Whitney's fantastic debut novel THE MOCKINGBIRDS and its sequel THE RIVALS!

Check out a Psychtember Interview with Daisy Whitney!

Stop back SOON for a fun interview with Daisy Whitney,
and come back this fall as I review Daisy Whitney's upcoming release of her first contemporary fantasy novel, STARRY NIGHTS!

O P E N I N G   L I N E:
WHEN SOMEONE YOU LOVE HAS DIED, there is a certain grace period during which you can get away with murder. Not literal murder, but pretty much anything else.
(pg. 1, US hardcover edition)

Great books are always harder to review than ones I don't love as much. Words escape me, or aren't quite right. This isn't the first time author Daisy Whitney has me at a loss for words, and I'm sure it won't be the last, either. She's an extremely gifted writer whose books need to become more well-known in the world.

WHEN YOU WERE HERE may scare some people away initially because it's about loss and grieving, but it is about so much more, too. It is a book of triumph, of overcoming loss, of learning to live again. There are so many layers to loss, it's never black or white, this or that. When new loss is layered atop old loss, it's even harder to get out of your dark place and embrace life. Main character Danny goes through so many stages of loss and the grieving process, and he does it all in Japan, one of the perfect places to go when grieving. There is so much philosophy and legend built on loss and life in the Japanese culture. They bloom for such a little time and die so fast, but are beautiful for the time they're alive. Fallen samurai on the battlefield were often linked to cherry blossoms.  There's even a sad story about a loyal dog named Hachiko, who went to the train station every day after his owner passed on. As soon as I heard that Daisy had a book about loss taking place in Japan and that the main character had a beloved dog of his own, I begged her to somehow include Hachiko...but she already had! Hachiko is that integral to a book on grief. Even if you've never been to Japan, you'll feel like you have after reading this book; I wanted to go back (I lived in Japan for two years) and eat delicious Harajuku crêpes, take part in hanami (Cherry Blossom Viewing Parties), go to the Tsukiji Fish Market, and do everything right alongside Danny. I missed Japan so much reading this, so if you've never been, I truly think you'll be able to embrace the atmosphere and be there anyway.

The whole book doesn't start out in Japan, however. Danny and his mom live in Los Angeles, California, but often travel to Japan to visit. They travel so frequently that they own a little place there. Danny's mom has been struggling with cancer for years, and her last wish was to see her son graduate. Sadly, she died two months before she could see her goal come to fruition, never saw him announced Valedictorian. He's shut out everyone in his life, especially his ex-girlfriend Holland. He no longer cares about anyone or anything, only happy when he's with his beloved dog Sandy Koufax. When he receives a letter from Japan asking what he'd like to do with his mother's property, he instantly decides to leave town and fly to Japan. Maybe in Japan, there will be answers about his mother and why she stopped holding on when she was so close to her goal. Maybe her Japanese doctor knows something, like whether or not his mom stopped taking his medication. He leaves behind a world of broken memories (and reluctantly leaves Sandy Koufax with a friend) and embraces an unknown future. Going to Japan is the best thing Danny can do. He comes to terms with his grief and learns to embrace life again. He befriends Kana, a girl not afraid to dress crazy and stand out. She takes him around Japan and helps him get out of his funk. When Danny's ex-girlfriend Holland reappears, she tears open his healing scabs and digs into his wounds once more. Can they heal together, or will Holland's presence destroy everything Danny's worked so hard to reclaim?

Whitney is superb at delivering beautifully-packaged prose. I quoted several sentences while reading and could have done even more. Her writing style worms its way into a reader's heart and forces him or her to care about the characters and the story. At first, Danny is lost and wandering aimlessly. You don't like everything about him or the decisions he makes. There's a hint of something good, however, and that nugget shines brighter and brighter as you continue reading until you can't help but love Danny and want him to be happy again. Kana was a great friend to Danny. I embraced her zaniness and would love to be friends with her as well. Her English is impressively good for someone who has yet to live abroad and become fully immersed, which bothered me at times, knowing where her English levels should probably be, but most people won't notice or care. It's a nitpicky complaint, and one I have only because I lived in Japan and knew quite a few Japanese who spoke English. At the same time, I lived nowhere near Tokyo, so it could be that Japanese teenagers are more fluent in large tourist cities. I don't know. Either way, I loved Kana and without her great English skills, wouldn't know her as well as I do by the novel's end--and neither would Danny. That would be a tragedy. As for Holland...well.  Whitney creates a great character in Holland because she's easy to hate at times, but you also understand where she's coming from and can relate. Romances are complicated, messy things, especially when you're a teenager, and Holland and Danny are no different. Whitney's twists and turns were surprising, but always felt real and never trite.

There are so many nuances to situations in WHEN YOU WERE HERE, and everything ties together in surprising, unpredictable ways. Together, they form a cohesive, wonderful novel. All of these small elements make a whole, and the story would be imperfect without any of them. They come alive when pieced together to fully tell the story of a boy overcoming grief in so many ways and learning how to live again. It's a journey you shouldn't miss out on!

C O V E R   D E S I G N:

You know by now that I'm big on interiors matching their exteriors, right? I love that the same handwritten font from the cover:

also makes up each chapter heading:

It just adds a little extra touch for me, you know? 

I also like the way the model's head is bathed in light. You can't see him well, but you can tell that he's unhappy. It suits main character Danny well. I also like that the shirt he's wearing is blue and that the title font is blue as well. It's melancholy and down, giving the cover a somber air it might not have were the colors happy reds or yellows, for example.  

The cover, the title, the covers, the expression...they all come together and let prospective readers know that this is a book about grief.

O F F I C I A L   I N F O:

Author: Daisy Whitney
Release Date: June 4, 2013
Publisher: Little, Brown
Received: Purchased

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.

1 OF 3 

Daisy Whitney would love your help spreading the word about WHEN YOU WERE HERE!
You get bonus entries every time you post one of the following images online on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, etc. 
along with a caption such as,
"I can't wait to read WHEN YOU WERE HERE by Daisy Whitney!" 

These images all represent moments from WHEN YOU WERE HERE.
They make me miss Japan, too. 

Who wants to take a trip to Tokyo now after all this? ^.~

Harajuku crêpes
Dogs in matching sweaters in Tokyo
Imperial Gardens
Shoto Cafe Sponge Cake
Tea at Tea Ceremony
Enter now!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Tokyo looks like so much fun! :D

  2. Sounds like a fascinating story. I can't wait to read it. Thanks for the review and giveaway link.

    Ann@Blogging E-books

  3. A book about recovering and finding yourself

  4. thanks for this giveaway Bonnie!! I have yet to read anything from Daisy Whitney and I've heard phenomenal things about this book!!

  5. The book looks and sounds fantastic. I wouldn't mind taking a trip and seeing these sights either. Thank you so much for the giveaway!


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