So much grief in such a little book
When You Were Here
by Daisy Whitney
Little, Brown for YR | Hardcover, 272 pages
Danny’s father died of a horrific car accident.
Danny’s sister left in search of her roots in China.
Danny’s girlfriend unceremoniously dumped him when she left for college.
Danny’s mother lost her battle with cancer.
Just when he thought there was nothing left of his shattered heart to break, he finds out that his broken heart can still be reduced to a million other pieces.
Echoing the angst-ridden perspective of Adam Wilder (Where She Went by Gayle Forman), Danny Kellerman let the readers decide for themselves whether or not to surrender to tears or detach themselves from his story altogether. I, for one, was on the verge of being completely destroyed on several occasions but didn’t fully give in. There was something mechanical, manly, and utterly brave in the way Danny told his story. I wouldn’t say that the author failed to incite emotions, rather, she perfectly captured how a boy such as Danny could handle each and every heartbreak life threw his way. Fair warning, if you were a ninny who cries at the drop of a hat, then you might just be a mess after reading this book.
Danny had the ideal life: supportive, ideal family, alluded to being a popular boy in school, intelligent and who had the perfect love story. He fell in love with the proverbial girl next door when he was a young boy and the girl fell in love back. So when life knocked him down with one blow harder than the next, it was easy to see and predict that he would be well on his way to self-destruction. There was an affair with an older woman (he’s only 18) who was also his drug dealer and a valedictorian speech that he abruptly ended with, f*ck highschool, f*ck everyone.
One would buckle under the pressure for sure. But Danny dealt with it the only way he knew how. Numbing the pain and grief with drugs while he finds a way to climb out of the impossibly dark oblivion he’s in. There was a lot of questions swirling in his mind. Least of all is the puzzling way his girlfriend dumped him. He somehow found a temporary purpose, a trip to Japan to see if he can find answers.
This book would make you want to see Tokyo for yourself. The melding of the eccentric and traditional; the West mixing with the East. There’s something about Whitney’s view of the country that made it all the more beautiful.
When You Were Here did not make me bawl my eyes out. It did, however, make me grab my chest, massaged it until the choking feeling went away. I felt for Danny; he was so alone and so grief-stricken. He also made me angry for all the questions he refused to ask Holland. But even with all that, he made me wish I could somehow take some of his heartache, own a piece of it just for a little while. Because maybe then he could make sense of what was left of his life.