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When You Were Here Hardcover

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (June 4, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316209740
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316209748
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.7 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #588,725 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

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.

From Booklist

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

More About the Author

Daisy Whitney is the author of the award-winning novel THE MOCKINGBIRDS and its sequel THE RIVALS. When she's not inventing fictional worlds, she writes and reports on new media, TV and advertising for a range of publications and news outlets. She graduated from Brown University and lives in San Francisco, California, with her fabulous husband, fantastic kids, and adorable dogs. Her third novel, WHEN YOU WERE HERE, is a standalone YA and will release in Spring 2013, also to be published by Little, Brown. In addition, her young adult modern fantasy novel STARRY NIGHTS will release in Fall 2013 from Bloomsbury. You can follow her writing blog and media adventures at DaisyWhitney.com.

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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See all 34 customer reviews
Daisy Whitney writes in a full, descriptive style that I really love.
S Day
It's one of those stories that will stay with you for a long time and you'll find yourself thinking about it long after you read the last page.
K. Sowa
Danny's journey becomes about much more, and it's a true discovery of self and life and love and healing and being at peace with death.
Mrs. Heise

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By T. shaw on June 5, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
I spent the entire day reading this and I couldn't put it down. So here's a brief review. Danny's mom dies and after graduation he goes to Tokyo to look for answers to what sort of treatments she was getting over there for her illness. He's angry at himself, at his parents (both are deceased now) and the girl who broke his heart. He meets an uber cool Japanese girl who helps him uncover some of answers to his questions. And there's a twist, a shocker, that I didn't see coming and when it arrived I needed a box of tissues.

Yeah, in the beginning Danny comes across as a bit of a spoiled brat dealing with a lot of anger, but yes he should be given what he's gone through. The story really comes alive the minute he lands in Japan.

This one is really different from Whitney's Mockingbirds and Rivals and it just spoke to me more. It's definitely her strongest writing yet.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Rachel on July 15, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I absolutely loved this. One of the best books I've read about grief, and even saying that feels inaccurate because this is about so much more than healing after losing a loved one. All the main characters are realistic and flawed, and the writing is spectacular.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By K. Sowa on June 27, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Danny Kellerman lost his dad six yeas ago, his sister has moved to China and essentially left the family, and his mom died of cancer two months ago. He is angry, numb and lost. Yet, strangely, I found this book to be uplifting, insightful and interesting, which is not what I was expecting from a book with such a painful synopsis. Danny's search for self-destructive behavior is pretty clearly a way for him to cope and to escape the numbness of his life, but I loved the way that the people who acted as enablers actually ended up providing bits of wisdom that he collected along the way. In a narrative voice that was as raw and honest as it was typically masculine, we read about Danny's sometimes funny, and often painful journey to find out about the part of his mom's life that she spent in Japan. It would have been easy for this book to turn into a sort of "stranger travels to a strange place and finds the meaning of life" type of book, which I suppose it was a little bit, but it escaped the annoying triteness that would have made it just another coming of age story. What When You Were Here became was a beautifully written book about searching for an answer and finding an entirely new way of thinking.

Danny's time in Japan is the majority of the book and I think my favorite character, other than than his dog Sandy Koufax, was Kana. Kana was a combination of a MPDG and crazy BFF that we all wish we had. Added to the fact that she was awesome was that she was a friend. Not a romantic interest, but a female friend and there are not enough words to express how much I loved that. There are not enough friendships like this in YA, in my opinion, and having her there as a non-love interest was healing for Danny's character and, quite frankly, healing for me as an avid reader of YA.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Bonnie Lynn Wagner on June 25, 2013
Format: Hardcover
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.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Kris on June 20, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Danny has suffered much loss over the years. The only remaining member of his family is his dog Sandy Koufax (named after his favorite baseball player... by his mom), and he finds himself itching to leave his home and escape everything. So he escapes to his favorite place--Tokyo, where his mom had hoped to find a cure but instead seems to have made peace with her life and imminent death. There, Danny hopes to find the same peace that his mom did and hopefully find a way to continue living.

Danny is a very real character in his grief. I've never had to go through what he did, and hopefully it'll be a long while before I begin to feel the beginnings of his pain. Sometimes he does stupid things just because he has a "get free card" thanks to his loss, and it's frustrating to see himself wreck himself like that. His journey of healing is slow and very real. It doesn't come as one big revelation at the end like many similar novels do; rather, it comes a little bit at a time, like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle coming together. At times, Danny finds out something that throws the greater picture out of whack, but he never gives up hope as he persists in finding out the truth behind his mom's ventures in Japan and, more importantly, more about himself and what he has to live for.

The side characters are somewhat detached from the story. While I know that they're there, and I know what I like and dislike about them, they're never fully present. It's okay because this story focuses on Danny's inner development and his path to finding peace in life and moving on. Kana is the funny, eccentric Asian girl with a sense of humor. I like the friendship that forms between her and Danny. It's something that he needs--a good friend with whom he can really talk without worry.
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