From School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up–Eighteen-year-old Danny has lost everyone important in his life: his father died six years ago, his older sister is estranged, his girlfriend pulled away with no explanation, and his mother succumbed to cancer only two months before his high school graduation. While fighting off grief through prescription drug abuse, Danny receives a letter from Kana, the daughter of the manager who oversees his family's Tokyo apartment, inexplicably conveying that his mother was happy there in her last months. His mother, who wanted to share a lifetime of memories with her son, went to Japan in search of healing, and Danny follows in search of answers: How could she find joy in the face of imminent death? Can he find that same peace? Quirky fashionista Kana becomes his friend and guide as he rediscovers Tokyo and grapples with his losses. Though Kana's English-language ability seems conveniently advanced for the sake of the plot, her endearingly forthright character sparkles on the pages. Danny's rough language, vulnerability, and raw anger paint a vivid portrait of a young man in desperate need of comfort and stability. Readers will root for him as he strives to find meaning in the way his mother lived and died. Against a backdrop of Tokyo's bright lights, trendy crepe stands, and ancient temples, Danny's journey to healing is heartbreaking, hopeful, and full of luminescent beauty. This gem of a book will lead readers to ponder life, love, death, and everything in between.–Allison Tran, Mission Viejo Library, CAα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Danny is exploding in small ways. He purposefully clips a parked car as he drives by. He ends his valedictorian speech by flipping the finger. Danny’s mother died of cancer two months earlier, after seeking treatments in Mexico, Greece, and Japan, promising she would make it to Danny’s graduation. Then Danny discovers that his mother had stopped taking her medications, apparently during the time she was being treated in Tokyo. What happened to her promise about making it to his graduation? Danny heads off to Japan, seeking to understand his mother’s final months, and to escape the alluring presence of his ex-girlfriend, Holland. Despite the sad topic, it’s refreshing to read a story centered on a boy’s love for his mother. As Danny learns about his mother’s transformative stay in Tokyo, Danny also discovers her secrets, including a big one about Holland. He is aided by the vivacious Kana, who declares that (despite appearances) she is not a Harajuku girl. With that fascinating city as a backdrop, Danny rediscovers his own passion for life. Pair this with Holly Thompson’s The Language Inside (2013). Grades 10-12. --Diane Colson