Goodreads description: 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.
When You Were Here was another book on my Top Ten Summer TBR. Jamie from The Perpetual Page Turner said the male POV was as good as Adam from Where She Went by Gayle Forman, which is high praise in my opinion. I also knew it was a sad book and liked the sound of it.
This book basically destroyed me. Can that just be my review? It was painful, there was ugly crying involved. I knew it was going to be sad going in, the description definitely warns you, you know Danny is trying to cope with the loss of his mother. I expected crying and sadness. But this book has surprise sadness lurking. I’m not going to spoil it, but it was rough and if I’d known about it, I wouldn’t have read the book. That being said, I’m glad I didn’t know about it. I had some issues with this book, but over all I liked it.
So, like we’ve already talked about, Danny is trying to cope with his mother’s death from cancer. In the beginning of the story, he is a total douche. I know you can get away with a lot because someone you love dies, but he stretches it way too far in my opinion. He’s also coping with his ex-girlfriend and love of his life, Holland. She dumped him when she left for college and now that she’s back, she’s always around and helping him. He isn’t sure what to do about that because he still loves her and doesn’t understand why they’re not together. Danny is lost in sadness and douchiness, confused about life and how to spend his days when he gets a letter about his mom’s apartment in Japan (yes, they have an apartment in Japan, who doesn’t?” The letter adds to the confusion which makes him decide to go to Japan and investigate.
Danny was an interesting character. He has been through a lot, but a lot of people have been through a lot. I’m sure many of them want to be jerks but don’t, so it might have been really nice for him to be able to act like a twelve-year-old. He is extremely adorable with his dog, Sandy Koufax. He asks her questions and gets sad when he has to leave her, his relationship with his dog is so realistic and was something I really loved about the book. When Danny becomes more focused on finding out what happened in Japan, he becomes a lot more tolerable. He discovers a lot of things he didn’t know and is surprised to learn certain things about his mother. He has to examine how he feels about what he learns and has to look at his own life because of what he learns.
I loved learning about Japan. It was an awesome and unusual setting. It’s a really cool aspect of the story but it’s a little weird, too. Danny’s family was wealthy and his mom could afford to go anywhere for treatment and they owned an apartment in Japan. It’s nice for the story, but it was also convenient. Kana was the daughter of the lady that took care of the apartment while the family was gone. She’s a teenager (I think 17) and she was so much fun! She was happy and wouldn’t let Danny be too serious. She definitely kept him check.
The relationship aspect is difficult for me to talk about because I don’t want to spoil anything. It was good and bad. I liked them both and I liked the chemistry and romance between them. I loved the story of how they got together and started liking each other. I don’t exactly buy the reason she broke up with him. It really frustrated me, and I won’t say anymore about it here because if I do, it will turn into a rant.
I also had some issues with how quickly Danny developed. It seemed really soon, the story takes place in one summer with flashbacks throughout, especially because of how bitter he is in the beginning. It seemed too easy for me. However, I did actually like the resolution and thought it was fitting, it just seemed rushed to me. I had a few other small gripes but nothing huge. A lot of the resolution seemed too simple considering the complicated situations that were involved. I think it just needed more effort. The simplicity didn’t make it bad, but it felt a little emptier than I (personally) was expecting.
So, I obviously had a lot of issues with this book but part of me just loved it anyway. I was sobbing and soaking tissues and even though there were moments that had me rolling my eyes, I really connected with the story and the characters. I liked Danny, even though he could be a jerk. I liked Holland even though I didn’t agree with her actions. I loved Kana and Sandy Koufax was amazing and I wish she would have been around more!
I had issues, but I think it was a good book. Some infuriating instances but a lot of good things happened, too. I am pretty certain I could never read this book again, unless I was just aching and needed to cry. I would recommend it if you like sad reads with surprising sad hidden inside, guys being adorable with dogs, fun and fashionable Japanese girls, a sad but lovely romances and endless tears.