Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Release Day: When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney

Published: June 4 2013 by Little Brown
Pages: 264
Source: eARC provided for blog tour
Buy it at:


Filled with humor, raw emotion, a string 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. 


We eat in silence for a  minute, then Holland breaks it. "So you're going to Tokyo?"
"Your Mom told you?"
"Did your Mom send you to get info out of me or something?"
"No. She mentioned it, and now I am mentioning it. Why is there info to get? Are you going with a girl?"
I scoff. "Yeah, right. I was supposed to go with someone, but it didn't work out." I say, my eyes locked on her the whole time.
"Well, I wanted to go okay?" 
"So did I," I say, so low it's a whisper. But she hears me, and she inches her hand across the counter, just a little bit closer, and that hand, I want to grab it and hold on.
"Me too," she says barely there, barely painting the space between us with all that has been broken. 
I glance at our hands, so close all it would take is one of us giving an inch.
"I bought my ticket an hour ago."
"When do you leave?"
"A couple of days from now. I found a good deal."
She nods a few times, taps her fingers. I can feel the warmth from her hands. "Cool." she says, and we stay like that. One stretch is all it would take to be back, so I wait. Wait for her to tell me she'll miss me, to ask me to stay, to put her hands on my face and press her lips against mine and kiss me like it's the thing that's been killing her not to do for all these months. That is's not cool for me to go. That is I go, she'll be the one who's sad.
But she doesn't. We just finish our food, and she washes the plates, and the other ones that were in the sink too, and she tosses out the cartons from Captain Wong's and bags up the garbage, and she's like a nurse. She's here as a nurse. To take care of me. To make sure I eat enough food and clean the house and take my vitamins.
I watch her take my vitals and check my temperature and adjust the tubes, and when she suggests we watch a movie, here on the couch, I just nod because my heart isn't beating fast enough anymore, blood isn't pumping smoothly enough anymore for me to find the will to say no like I did last night. Evidently I can buy tickets to fly out of the country, no problem, but I can't even tell Holland to stop being so near to me all the time but not near enough.
Because she is supposed to want to go to Tokyo with me now. She is supposed to invite herself, to ask me in that sweet and sexy, that bold and confident voice, to say that I should take her along, that we promised we'd go together, that we even talked about it last summer.
All I needed is reminding. As if I were the one who'd forgotten.
Instead she turns on the TV and finds a film here the hero survives a bridge being blown up. We stay like that through fire and bombs, through fists and blows, through a knife fight in an alley, a foot away from each other, not touching, not moving, not talking, not curled up together, just staring mutely at the screen.
But faking it becomes too much for me, so when the hero clutches the crumbling concrete from the bridge, scrambling for purchase, I stand up and leave the living room, mumbling, "Be right back."
I walk to the bathroom at the other end of the hall. I shut the door. I head straight for the window. I slide it open and pop out the screen. I stand on the toilet seat, then climb the rest of the way out the window and hop into my front yard. I close the window, and I walk and I walk and I walk.
When I return an hour later, my greatest hope is she'll be gone. My most fervent wish is that I will have made my great escape from her, from her hold on me. But instead I find her sound asleep on my couch. Sandy Koufax tucked into a ball at Holland's bare feet.
I kneel down on to the tiles where the book she was reading has slipped out of her hands. It's a paperback, The Big Sleep. I run a thumb across the cover, wondering when Holland developed a penchant for Raymond Chandler. There was a time when she would have told me her favourite parts. When she would have tried to tell me the ending because she loved it so much, she had to share, and I'd have held up a hand and told her to stop. Laughing all the time. Then I'd have read it too, and we'd have walked on the beach and talked about the best parts. We'd have done that tonight with the movie too. Imitated the actors' inflections at their most over-the-top moments, then marveled at the blown-up buildings.
I shut the book we're not sharing. The ending we're not talking about. I place it on the coffee table and walk upstairs, because if I stay near her, I will wake her up, rustle a shoulder, and ask her. Ask her why she left. Ask her why she's here. Ask her what changed for her.
When I get into my bed, I am keenly aware of her in my house, as if the rising and falling of her breathing, the fluttering of her sleeping eyelids, can somehow be seen and heard from a floor above. I imagine her waking up, walking up the stairs, heading down the hall, standing in my doorway, a sliver of moonlight through the window sketching her in the dark. I would speak first, telling her the truth-that I'm still totally in love with her. That nothing has changed for me when it comes to her.
Everything else is so muted, so fuzzy, so frayed around the edges. This-how I feel for Holland-is the only thing in my life that has remained the same. Everyone I have loved is gone. Except her. Holland is the before and the after, and the way I feel for her is both lethal and beautiful. It is like breathing, like a heartbeat.
She would say the same words back to me, that she feels the same. Then she would say my name, like she's been searching for something, like she's found the thing she's been looking for.
Come find me, come find me, come find me.


I will have to admit that when I first started reading this book, I really was not sure it was for me. I had to take a moment to pause after a couple of chapters and reflect on why I was feeling this way because it is beautiful writing, and a really interesting story. Then I figured it out, the first thing being it was told from a male perspective, and I have not read a lot of books from this point of view before. The next thing is that the first real basis of the story is a child grieving the loss of his Mother, fortunately, I have not experienced this. I will have to admit though, I think Daisy Whitney hit the emotions pretty dead on in some ways. Danny has a way of trying to deal with this that has made it so that his emotions are pretty numb, so when I thought that he was pretty emotionless, I had to remind myself as to why.

He is also struggling with the fact that he is still madly in love with his ex-girlfriend Holland, but she broke his heart once before, and has suddenly come back in to his life after his Mother passes away, and he does not know how to deal with her being there. He needs her, but he does not want to admit it as he is still angry at her for leaving him with almost no word. We do learn during the novel why she did this, and it is a very serious situation as well, so when Danny finds out finally, I thought for sure he is going to crack, but he does not. We see how Holland has had to deal with it, and find out why she made the decisions that she did, and I was rooting for them to make it through, I could feel their chemistry and knew that they still loved each other very much!

I give Danny a lot of respect for being able to pick up from his life in California to take a trip to Tokyo, where his Mother (now he) owns an apartment, especially with leaving his dog back home, as we all know, sometimes pets can be the best companions in our times of need. One of the main reasons that he goes to Tokyo is to meet the Dr that his Mom had been going to visit once a month during the last few months of her life, and why she felt the need to go there, and find out what this magical cure was that he was helping her with. There is a lot that happens during his trip, and it is not all good. We see Danny grow tremendously through this story, and find out that what may look one way to you, looks and is completely different to someone else, and we really need to calm down, and communicate with those close to us to truly understand where the other one is coming from. 

Though he goes on this trip for his Mom, it turns out that it is more a trip for himself to get some closure, and some of it he refuses to believe at first. I cannot tell you enough how much I enjoyed this book, it may not be very long (under 300 pages), but it packs a whopper of a punch as far as story line, and just when I think someone is going to crack from all the pressure, their light bulb goes off, and they start to see things completely differently from what they originally did. I have yet to this day found a book that can make me cry, but this one got my emotions going more than any other in recent history. I highly suggest this novel for anyone looking for a contemporary with a lot of meat to it, also anyone going through the loss of a loved one, I think it would really help with trying to see all sides, and that even though it may feel like the end of the world, it may just be a new beginning to a different kind of world for them.

I also have Daisy Whitney's The Mockingbirds on my shelf, and just have not had the time to read it yet, and after reading this story, it is going to be made a priority on my to be read pile. A wonderful piece of art, it gets a 5/5 from this (now) very emotional reader!


By day, Daisy Whitney is a reporter and ghostwriter. At night, she writes novels for teens and is the author of The Mockingbirds and it's sequel The Rivals (Little, Brown). Her third novel When You Were Here releases in June 2013 (Little, Brown), and her fourth novel Starry Nights (Bloomsbury) hits shelves in September 2013. When Daisy's not inventing fictional high school worlds, she can be found somewhere north of San Francisco walking her adorable dog, watching online TV with her fabulous husband or playing with her fantastic kids. A graduate of Brown University, she believes in shoes, chocolate chip cookies and karma. You can follow her writing blog and new media adventures athttp://daisywhitney.blogspot.ca/ , twitter https://twitter.com/DaisyWhitney, or facebook https://www.facebook.com/mockingbirdsbook.

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