When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney | Book Review

When You Were Here by Daisy WhitneyBook Title/Author: When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney
: Little Brown June 4th 2013
Genre: Contemporary YA
Series: No
Other Books From Author: The  Mockingbirds/The Rivals, Starry Nights (out in Fall 2013)

Amazon| Goodreads | Twitter |

I borrowed this from a very kind friend.




Three weeks before Danny’s graduation, his mom loses her battle with cancer and Danny becomes an orphan.  Amidst his grief and hopelessness, a directionless Danny has to try to make it through his graduation and deliver a hopeful Valedictorian speech while trying to make adult decisions about what to do with their home and his mother’s things. On top of it all, the girl who broke his heart by just shutting him out of her life suddenly reappears in his life. When the manager of his family’s apartment in Japan, where Danny’s mom had spending some of her final months for treatment, sends a letter that reveals to him that maybe he didn’t know all about his mother’s final months and why she seemed so happy in them. With nagging questions and sense of purposelessness that has made him numb, Danny takes a trip around the world to Japan to if he can find the answers and reconnect with his mother through these memories

I read this book back in January, wrote my Save the Date for it immediately and my heart is still bursting at the seams with my love for it remembering the emotional journey I took with Danny. I can say it’s one of the best 2013 books I’ve read so far and for sure a new favorite. I instantly knew I wanted to read this book when I first creeped the catalog because the story was about a boy whose mom, who wanted to see him graduate high school, passes away from brain cancer 3 weeks before he graduates. I nearly cried just reading the summary because that was my mom’s wish to see us graduate which, luckily for us, she did. I’m always drawn to stories of grief in YA and I knew this was going to hit close to the heart. It did in fact make me sob and sob and sob.

When You Were Here was just all around beautiful. It steamrolls through your heart and then you realize, by the last page, that Daisy Whitney has been so subtly rebuilding those pieces of your heart ensuring that it’s still intact. It’s a story of loss and love but also of the courage and strength you must possess to make it through both. It’s more than just a story about a boy who loses his mom. It’s about how we move forward in all of these things that life throws our way. I definitely connected to the grief portion for personal reasons but, without a doubt, the things that Danny grapples with are things I think a lot of people will connect with.

I loved the physical and emotional journey Danny takes to Tokyo to retrieve his mother’s belongings and looking for answers to what his mom was doing with her time in those last months. I loved how Danny tries to feel the spirit of his mom in the city they loved so much and Daisy Whitney makes the city comes alive as Danny visits the fish market, ambles along the twisted streets or admiring the cherry blossoms. The spunky daughter of the caretaker, Kana, was one of my favorite characters and her spirit just radiated vibrantly which really was this surge of brightness that was a nice balance to the grief and sorrow Danny was feeling. She was the perfect tour guide and really helped him understand some of what his mom was doing and to start the healing process by reminding him to keep LIVING. I love how he learns more about his mom through Kana and her mother and also through the city she spent so much time in, that in turn, help him through this process and learn a lot about himself.

I connected so much with Danny and love the way he was written — one of THE best male POVS I’ve read in YA that was both emotional and felt like HOW A REAL GUY THOUGHT/TALKED. None of this “what the hell kind of boy talks or acts like that?” that I’ve encountered so often.  Having watched my now husband grapple with his own grief I felt that some of the things were so realistic for how some guys might deal with things versus how I did.

I think the ONLY way I didn’t connect with him was with the whole ex girlfriend thing. There is this whole THING surrounding them and their breakup and how she just up and left — it was a little bit hard to swallow and I really struggled to connect with HER which hindered my ability to understand Danny’s love for  her. We get a little of a background of THEM but I felt like I just never FELT what they shared. There are things that will make you understand her more but I just would have liked to truly feel what he felt for her.  I was at such a distance from her whereas, even though his mother wasn’t alive during the book, I felt like I REALLY got to know her and feel the depth of their relationship.

Aside from the emotional grief aspect of this novel there is something that happens that is of the rollercoaster stomach dropping variety and completely took me off guard. I didn’t expect it and it pretty much laid me out emotionally. Big sobby mess over here when I read it — snot nose and all. (I’m so delightful, aren’t I?) I just didn’t see it coming at all.

When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney is one of my newest favorite contemporaries. It’s definitely an emotional read with moments that will steamroll right through your heart but also a good balance of ones that will uplift and remind you how much strength the human spirit has and how resilient we are in love and loss. Loved the realistic male perspective and I connected with him and his physical and emotional journey to work through his grief throughout the novel (with the aside of fully FEELING this connection to his ex girlfriend). It’s a beautifully written story through and through and I highly recommend it if you are a fan of YA contemporary that is more of an emotional, not so light read. ALSO, favorite pet in YA in this book!



When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney review


Let’s Talk: Have you read this one??  Heard of it?  If you’ve read it, did you enjoy it or feel different than me? Did you see the THING coming or were you surprised like I was?


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
About Jamie

Jamie is a 32 year old married lady (with a new baby!!) who is in denial that she's actually that old to be a married lady and a mom. When she's not reading you can find her doing Pilates followed by eating ice cream, belting out Hamilton (loud and offkey) and having adventures with her husband, daughter and rescue dog.


  1. I really wish this one had steamrolled my heart. I live for that. Alas.

    See, you actually had the same issue I did, but it was a bit more overwhelming for me. *kicks Holland* I feel like I might have been okay with it if it hadn’t been an HEA for them. There’s no way I could ever forgive someone for that. Plus, he was sleeping with that doctor lady, which also was a weird way to start. I think I would have preferred it to be simpler and just about his mom and Japan. Ah well. Tons of people LOVED this, so I’m just a weirdo or in the wrong mood or something.

    • I’m so sad that it didn’t do that for you, too! But can’t LOVE them all!

      Yeah, I think if it would have been a more MAJOR issue for me I wouldn’t have loved it either. It was more minor but I just couldn’t connect to figure out why she was worth all of his angst lol. I def agree that I would have preferred a story with just his mom and Japan. I don’t know what it is that made me not rage at what happened and be ok with it because I KNOW in my personal life that would NOT fly.

      Thanks for your opinion, lady! I always love hearing them even when we don’t 100% feel the same way! You always have such valid points!

  2. I haven’t read this one BUT it is on my TBR list and I think I’ll keep it there. I still really want to read this one.

  3. I think I need to read this one! I’m so glad that you said that it had an authentic male POV! They are some of my favorites when they are well done (which sadly, isn’t often.) Delightful review!

    • SO AGREE! I have such a hard time finding authentic male POVS that I just HAVE to shout it from the rooftops! My two other favorites are Adam from Where She Went by Gayle Forman and Travis from Something Like Normal by Trish Doller!

  4. I really enjoyed reading your honest and heartfelt review! It’s always such a wonderful feeling when you’re really and truly able to connect with a book and its main characters. I haven’t read many YA books narrated from a male perspective, so I can’t speak much to the general way that male narrators are written, but it’s not surprising at all to think that many aren’t as authentic. That’s great that wasn’t the case here!

  5. I remember you endorsing this book to me early on this year, and your review basically just seconds what you said. It sounds like a beautifully written book! I love that the grief and depression was tackled from a male POV. I also love that he journeys to Japan and what he does there helps him learn to deal with the grief and loss. Can’t wait to read this!

  6. I am SO happy you enjoyed this book! And that it’s even one of your favorite contemporaries now! I didn’t even hear of it until a few days ago. The synopsis appealed to me right away, but then I doubted I’d like the male narrator and stuff. After having read your review, I need to get this novel…maybe once it’s out in audiobook version…I’m thinking I’d like to listen to it… 😀 Great review, by the way, Jamie!


  1. Top Ten says:

    […] Just One Year by Gayle Forman Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan Wild Awake by Hilary T. […]