book review of When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney

Magan: When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney

book review of When You Were Here by Daisy WhitneyWhen You Were Here by Daisy Whitney (twitter | website)
Publication Date
: June 4, 2013
Publisher: Little, Brown
Pages: 264
Target audience: Young Adult
Keywords: loss of a parent, grief, Tokyo, relationships that don’t end well
Format read: ARC received from the publisher via NetGalley. (Thank you!)
Other Books Read by the Author: The Mockingbirds (a joint review)

Summary: Just a few short years after the loss of his father, Danny’s mom dies a few weeks shy of his high school graduation from the cancer she’s been battling. Danny is lonely and seeking answers; he goes to Tokyo to learn more about his mom’s last few months, treatments, and to seek peace after his unexplained break-up from his girlfriend, Holland.

Very, very thankfully I haven’t had to work through a parental loss. I can’t imagine what Danny must have been feeling when at 18, he finds himself without both parents. His father passed away after a freak accident in Japan a few years prior. Present day he’s reeling from the loss of his mother who passed away after a long battle with cancer, one month shy of his high school graduation. Further complicating his family dynamic, he and his (adopted, older) sister aren’t necessarily on good terms. Understandably, Danny is feeling very alone and lost.

He would turn to his best friend Holland for help and a listening ear, but Danny started dating her last year and then she completely cut off communication shortly after leaving for college. Even though she’s back home for the summer, things just aren’t the same. Danny and Holland can easily slip back into their witty banter, but Danny feels guarded because he’s still deeply in love with Holland. Without answers and a huge helping of honesty, he just can’t let things go back to the way they were.

To clear his mind, let go of Holland, and seek answers to burning questions he’s got about his mom’s passing, Danny takes off for Tokyo. His parents owned a house there and they frequently visited as a family. Danny’s mom visited Tokyo often throughout her last months for treatment and he feels speaking to her doctor will give him peace about why she couldn’t make it one more month to see him walk across the stage. He also must decide what to do with their family condo now that he’s inherited it. Kana, daughter of their property’s landlord, becomes his tour guide as he follows in his mother’s last footsteps.

When You Were Here was full of absolutely all of my favorite things — a deep, emotional story, shocking twists and turns that left me needing to collect my thoughts, and a journey to a new place that made me want to catch the first flight to Tokyo. Whitney’s writing was as beautiful as ever, and Danny’s voice was so spot on. He was full of humor that he used to protect himself from feeling all the pain he was going through. He was confused and in need of someone to protect him from more bad things happening.

There’s a major, major plot twist that made me gasp when I read through the scene. HOLY CRAP! — I was so stunned and silenced. I needed time to walk away and think about how I felt. Guys, that doesn’t happen often. Whitney made me feel like Danny’s life was real and I was being asked to lend a helping hand or offer advice. Hopefully you’ll feel the same protectiveness over Danny that I did; after I closed the book, I felt this spoke volumes for Whitney’s writing — she has an uncanny ability to make me want to take care of all her characters. (I felt the same way when I read The Mockingbirds.)

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Goodreads | Amazon | Why I Want to Visit Tokyo Now | Nail Polish Selections for the WYWH Cover

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BONUS: Daisy Whitney has another book coming out this fall, Starry Nights.
Don’t forget to add it to your TBR shelf on Goodreads!

series review for The Ruby Oliver Series by E Lockhart

Magan: The Ruby Oliver Series by E. Lockhart

series review for The Ruby Oliver Series by E Lockhart

The Boyfriend List: 15 Guys, 11 Shrink Appointments, 4 Ceramic Frogs and Me, Ruby Oliver
The Boy Book: A Study of Habits and Behaviors, Plus Techniques for Taming Them
The Treasure Map of Boys: Noel, Jackson, Finn, Hutch, Gideon—and me, Ruby Oliver
Real Live Boyfriends: Yes. Boyfriends, Plural. If My Life Weren’t Complicated, I Wouldn’t Be Ruby Oliver

The Ruby Oliver Series by E. Lockhart
Publication Dates
: 9/26/2006 | 4/22/2008 | 7/28/2009 | 12/28/2010
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Pages: 229 | 208 | 248 | 225
Target audience: Young Adult
Keywords: high school, friendship drama, seeing a therapist, dating relationships
Format read: First three borrowed from my library, the fourth purchased for my kindle.
Summary: Ruby Oliver is just a normal girl with two best friends — until she begins having panic attacks and has to see a therapist because her boy life is out of control and her best friends are no longer speaking to her.

Things I Know About Ruby Oliver and Why You Should Read This Series:

  1. Ruby is a little bit (okay, maybe a lot) crazy. She is boy crazy. She doesn’t interact with people well because she is so self-conscious and feels like she’s doing and saying the wrong things all the time. She blurts out whatever comes to mind and doesn’t think before she speaks. (This makes for some great laugh out loud moments while reading.)
  2. Ruby just doesn’t understand boys. She wants to date them, but is pretty judgey and particular about them. She gets herself in awkward situations and The Boyfriend List portrays how it seems like she’s had lots of crushes on boys and really gotten around, but that’s just not the truth. When she finally does get a boyfriend (hello, Jackson!) — things are anything but easy. Especially when…
  3. Ruby’s best friends aren’t super trustworthy. Her BFF Kim? Yeah, she kind of gets in the way and steals Ruby’s boyfriend. And you know what? She turns things around and makes Ruby seem like the bad person. So what happens to poor Ruby? She has panic attacks because school starts to suck so bad when all of her friends turn on her. And that leads to…
  4. Ruby begins to see a therapist. She doesn’t really know what to talk about and she’s a bit ADD in her thought process, jumping (leaping) from one topic to the next, but her therapy sessions are quite entertaining (especially as she begins to understand herself a bit more and doesn’t want to listen to what she knows needs to happen). She begins to realize that she’s got way more than just boy issues. For instance…
  5. Ruby’s parents are also crazy. Her mom is extremely self-involved and is always experimenting with some new diet. She dapples in Ruby’s life in the worst possible ways, and while she thinks she’s being helpful, she’s really not. Her dad is really into plants and has a greenhouse and Ruby’s just not into that, but does connect with him more. (It’s really easier if Ruby just avoids her mom because their relationship is just… complicated.)
  6. Ruby’s seclusion leads her to make a new friend. Or two. Noah and Megan are two people Ruby doesn’t ever socialize with much, but while she’s got no one else to talk to because her life is crap, she is kind of forced to get to know these two better. Turns out Noah’s got a lot of attractive qualities and Megan’s not the person Ruby pegged her to be (funny how that happens, right?).
  7. Ruby is relateable, funny, sarcastic, self-depricating, pure, and original. There’s really been no other character for me that has rivaled Ruby Oliver. I could have breezed through all four books in one day because I just ate them up. After waiting (months) for the last book from my library, I finally broke down and purchased it for my kindle because I just had to know how Ruby’s story ended. Each book dictates a year of Ruby’s high school life, beginning freshman year.
  8. You’ll only grow to love Ruby more throughout the series. Sure when Rub is a freshman and she’s going through all the stupid things she’s done, you might shake your head and say, “SILLY GIRL!” But, she grows up, she gets wiser, and becomes more comfortable in her own skin. She becomes a bit more daring and bold. (If that’s possible — she has some guts, I tell ya.) The more I read, the more I wanted to continue to read.

If you want a fun series that you’ll breeze through quickly and laugh out loud multiple times while reading, Ruby Oliver is your girl. These books made me remember all those times when I didn’t know what I said wrong that made my friends upset with me. It made me laugh at how naive I was when it came to boys, and how monumental every emotion seemed to be back in high school. You’ll remember what those times were like for you, but from Ruby Oliver’s  humorous perspective.

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The Boyfriend List (Goodreads | Amazon)
The Boy Book (Goodreads | Amazon)
Treasure Map of Boys (Goodreads | Amazon)
Real Live Boyfriends (Goodreads | Amazon)