You Were Here by Gian Sardar

You Were Here

Gian Sardar

You Were Here is written with fabulous detail and a true-to-life feel that evokes the romance and secrets of small-town America. 

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Readers of Kate Atkinson will delight in this suspenseful debut novel about a woman haunted by nightmares and her grandmother's role in a doomed love triangle almost seventy years before.

What if the past is never buried?

Death, accidental and early, has always been Abby Walters's preoccupation. Now thirty-three and eager to settle down with her commitment-shy boyfriend, a recurring dream from her past returns: a paralyzing nightmare of being buried alive, the taste of dirt in her mouth cloying and real. But this time the dream reveals a name from her family's past. Looking for answers, Abby returns home to small-town Minnesota for the first time in fourteen years, where she reconnects with her high school crush, now a police detective on the trail of a violent criminal. When Abby tries on her grandmother's mesmerizing diamond ring, a ring she always dreamed would be hers, she discovers a cryptic note long hidden beneath the box's velvet lining. What secret was her grandmother hiding? And could this be the key to what's haunting Abby? As she begins to uncover the traces of a love triangle gone shockingly wrong nearly seventy years before, we, too, see that the layers of our lives may echo a past we’ve never known. With mesmerizing twists and a long-buried secret that may finally rise to light, You Were Here weaves together two worlds separated by decades, asking if the mistakes made in past lives can ever be corrected in the future, and if some souls are meant to find one another time and time again.

Advance Galley Reviews

All I can say is wow. I was able to read this book as an advanced copy and I'm not sorry. This book had peaked my interest from the little excerpt I read before requesting a copy. The sheer momentum of the book kept the interest flowing. I couldn't put it down. I wanted to know the correlation between the characters, what they were thinking, what was going to happen next. This book was a breath of fresh air in the monotonous lull I was in. Anyone who is looking for a new book to read, You Were Here is one you need to pick up.

I really enjoyed this book! It's got everything in it - mystery, romance, secrets, magic - and is well written. Separated by chapters of "Then" and "Now," we get to piece together a long-ago love story and watch as the main character, Abby, discovers that perhaps the relationship she is in is not for her. She returns to her hometown in Minnesota after many years, and reconnects with her high school crush, who is now more attractive than ever, and a detective trying to solve a serial rape crime. Great, light read. Thank you First to Read for the galley copy!

I felt a little disoriented at first, trying to keep track of all the characters and if they belonged in the 'now' or 'then', but I'm so happy that I stuck with it. This novel is filled with pleasantly surreal moments and intriguing mysteries.

This was a fantastic mystery that kept me turning pages well into the night to find out how the story would end. The first 50 pages or so were kind of slow but keep on reading because once things start to happen, you won't want to put it down. The story is told in two time periods. The modern story is Abby's. Abby lives in LA and keeps having the same dream that she's had for years but this time she hears a name in her dream and when her mother knew of the person that she dreamed about she decided that she needs to go home to Minnesota for the first time in years to try to find out what was causing her dreams. While she is home, she meets one of the first boys that she had a crush on. He is now a police detective working on the case of a serial rapist in their town. So Abby's story is all about her dreams and her history and the case of the serial rapist. Her grandmother's story takes in her best friend, whose husband is having an affair and plans to leave her. The author did a fantastic job of interweaving these two time lines and two plots and her characters are great. I really enjoyed this novel - there was a lot of mystery, a major bad guy and a bit of romance - how can you go wrong? Thanks to First to Read for a copy of this book to read and review.

This was another story where I just need more. I'm so sad that it's over. I loved pretty much everything about this. Gian Sardar created a character, Abby, that I so resonated with. Her fear of the unknown, of being constantly afraid of some tragic circumstance just around the corner that cannot be prepared for. "...a mind that's never been easy on its owner." Abby is so real to me. Her relationship with her long-term boyfriend, her best friend, her mother, her childhood crush, her hometown, I'm sorry to keep repeating myself but it all felt so real. Sardar has a darkly poetic way of writing that drew me in. Her words were powerful, but that power isn't presented with huge, daunting words. Rather, her descriptions of houses and weather and feelings seem to be written from experience. For example, a description I loved: "There's nothing so beautiful, she once told Hannah, as a parking lot late at night when the snow has just begun." Simple, yet I instantly understood and recognized the beauty. There is a complexity in its simplicity, and I felt that consistently in Sardar's writing throughout this book. What an amazing, slow-burning whodunnit, with so many minor clues hidden that made me go, 'Oh my god, of course,' more than once. I loved the two time-periods that were interconnected, loved the characters from both time-periods, and probably obvious, but I loved this book. Thank you to Penguin First to Read for the opportunity to read this book in advance.

This book starts out slow and it was bit hard to keep track of all of the moving parts at first. The two timeline structure, which I've enjoyed in other novels, is not completely successful here (there are also several POVs, which further complicates things for the reader). I did find that the book picked up in the second half, but the ending was a bit lacking to me. Overall, this novel was just okay.

First time reviewing any book, so I read a few other reviews to get an idea of where to start. I agree that there are aspects of the "Now" story that are not as compelling as the "Then" story. I felt that the author started off interested in Abby's character - as a fully-fleshed woman with a somewhat lonely and fearful childhood turned into dreaminess and appreciation of history as a grown woman working with antiquities and estate jewelry - and then lost Abby to chasing the man who got away. The bleakness and unsatisfactory trajectory of Abby's current relationship is well established so when Abby begins her fling with Aidan, the reader can't be that upset about the impropriety but it's odd how fast they become a couple as if neither of them take the time to question anything. Even Abby's questioning of the past seems to be ill prepared and half-hearted. Aidan's character is the least developed. We are told he is handsome and somewhat of a womanizer but then struggle to find too much more to add to his character development besides his sudden, inexplicable attraction to Abby. Aidan's past is affected by a traumatic event that isn't clearly articulated so we can't understand fully why he is gun shy and hiding in his hometown. The rapist from Abby's past seems farfetched and flimsy as a side plot. As for the "Then" storyline, I think it is more interesting simply because the author slows everything down. The dark, haunting, and ghostly descriptions are still employed as in the "Now", but the pace becomes more day-to-day which, ironically, speeds up the action. You can actually see the tension developing between Claire and William and feel the relationship blooming between Eve and William. The repetition of each relationship (same restaurants, music, games, baths, hobbies, menu, etc) helps to cement the passing of days and allows the reader to focus on the thoughts and emotions rather than actions. This is the opposite of the "Now", which focuses too much on disjointed actions to spur the plot rather than conveying true emotions. I rather liked the ending - that Abby and Aidan couldn't quite put all the pieces together and that Eleanor's true identity remained unknown. The author even writes in the beginning that Claire is viewed by William as "faded and unremarkable" - I think Eleanor ends up as she began and as a just punishment. Finally, I understand where Edith came into play with her bitterness towards cheating husbands, but I would have liked a little more background on Ketty - that was the one character that would have been interesting to know more about besides a couple paragraphs relating her sad childhood. Overall, I enjoyed the book. Slightly more romance than mystery, but intriguing characters nonetheless. I'd be interested to read more by this author as there is tremendous potential for something great.

Original and atmospheric, although occasionally there is an overwhelming amount to keep track of and too much happening at once. For the most part, the book effectively jumps back and forth between the past and present, establishing each of the characters and doling out a tantalizing amount in each chapter to keep readers engaged. The two storylines converge nicely in a thrilling climax, and I found the endings in both time periods to be satisfying. I was more invested in the unfolding Eva/William/Claire love triangle than I was with Abby and Aiden reconnecting or the murder investigation, the latter of which feels like an afterthought to connect the two characters and add excitement to the present day events. Sardar has bitten off more than she can chew with the many intricacies of this story, but nonetheless it was an enjoyable ride.

I found this book difficult to follow. The beginning didn't flow, and as such didn't hold my attention. Just not for me!

I reviewed an advance copy of this book and I seem to be in the minority's of reviewed because I really enjoyed this book. It starts out a little confusing with jumping back and forth between time periods and not really understanding the whole storyline behind the grandmothers ring, but it unfolds in a really novel direction and I found myself flying through the pages. The ending was exactly what a mystery like this should be...complete and satisfying. A very well written book and I look forward to reading more by the author.

I'm sorry to say I didn't enjoy this. I read the first few chapters and couldn't get into it. I didn't connect with the story. Did not finish. :(

I'm usually a fan of books that span time periods, dedicate chapters to different characters, and flip back-and-forth between plot lines, but this struggled to hold my interest from the start. It picked up every one and a while, especially the excepts from the past, but overall, the description was much more intriguing than the actual novel was unfortunately. Also, from a technical standpoint, the book still requires a lot of editing work. I figured with a 33-year old protagonist this would be geared towards adults (or at least those in their 20s), but it read too simplistically like a teen novel. The descriptions, while pretty, seemed like a grade school paper fluffed up with a plethora of adjectives to stave off a potentially unsuspecting teacher who wasn't paying close attention to anything but surface level reading. Alternatively, it could've been descriptions written for a screenplay that the author decided to quickly turn into a novel format. It just was not for me.

I was given an advanced copy of this book. First of all, the writing in this book is amazing. The transitions between the past & the present is a refreshing style. I loved the characters & related to them. I also loved the mystery of it & trying to figure it all out while reading. It was a page turner & I could not put it down. Highly recommend this book.

I generally like novels with dual time periods, but this novel was difficult to follow. While I liked the characters, it was difficult to put them together to make the connection between the time periods.

This is a book that uses dual time periods to tell its story. I wasn't feeling the Then storyline, but as it became more clear how it tied into the Now storyline it picked up. Abby was an excellent character, and I really like Aidan the earnest cop.

Never start a novel with a dream, budding authors are told, but a dream opens YOU WERE HERE. But it's not just a dream, for the dream here is as much a character in the story as the protagonist Abby Walters. Those budding authors are also told to kill their darlings, and that's a bit of advice that Gian Sardar should have taken, but I digress. The novel starts out slow, slow, slow, and I was close to abandoning the thing as I waited for something to happen. Abby is wretchedly annoying, obsessed with death and dying to the point that you wish the manuscript had been edited a bit more tightly to cut out some of the constant repetition. We the readers get it, she's afraid of things to the point of nearly being crippled, always thinking she's about to get killed in some accident. However.... Don't give up on this one. In time, Abby will leave Los Angeles and her committment-phobic lover to attend her high school reunion, where she reconnects with the boy she once adored from afar. Turns out he's a police detective on the trail of a violent serial rapist. And while Abby is back in her former stomping grounds, she goes snooping around to uncover the meaning of a cryptic note she finds tucked into a ring box that once belonged to her grandmother. Woven into Abby's narrative is the tale of a woman connected to the grandmother, a woman who is having an affair with a married man. That subplot is interesting in itself, and the tension that builds as the man plans to leave his wife, who has uncovered the illicit romance, will have a reader turning the pages to see what comes next. That serial rapist is still on the loose in the present day, so there's tension building in that section of the narrative as well, enough to keep your eyes glued to the book. After a slow start through a tangled thicket of pretty prose that feels quite unnecessary the story gets down to business, and YOU WERE HERE proves to be an intriguing read. Just skip over all the darlings that the editor was unable to kill and you'll find a well-crafted novel for a weekend's entertainment.

Abby Walters struggles with various anxieties, the resurgence of disturbing dreams, and a long term relationship that doesn't seem to be moving forward. She then decides to return to Minnesota to attend a high school reunion and faces her past, along with her grandmother's past. I usually don't mind books that alternate past and present scenes, but for some reason the editing for this story did not flow for me and distracted my interest in the plot. Thanks to First to Read- Penguin Books USA for the free copy of this book.

I didn't love this book. I liked each story individually but didn't like them together even after you get the connection. I still don't understand the dream. It was definitely readable but I wouldn't read it again.

Thoroughly enjoyed this book. It did take a while to see how past and present were coming together. But once that happened story flowed along nicely. Loved Abby's character. Ending was a surprise!

I like a book that is written with a back and forth style, in this case Then and Now. I far preferred the Then side of this book and found the addition of Now to be distracting to the story. There are basically two endings one satisfactory and the other seemed to be just tagged on to finish up the Now side of the story line. The book was written with enough suspense built into the Then that pulled me along through the Now and engaged me enough with those characters to want to know what happened and to whom. If that sounds a bit confusing, that is how I felt reading the book.

Enjoyed this book. Wish the then and now related more to each other, but all in all very good. Relatable characters and easy to follow

Perhaps I should have read the blurb more carefully. I might not have requested. I think the Kate Atkinson mention peaked my interest. Again, a format I enjoy--here it's "Then" and "Now". So, two parallel story lines. BUT. My interest waxed and waned. I went from 2.5 [especially at the beginning] to 3 to 3.5 and finally settled on 3. The writing is fine. Then" interested me much more than "Now." Some I figured out; most not. Yes, it was suspenseful--when I was most interested in the "Then"--suspense was [for me] at a high point. But ultimately, the "Now" disappointed and became trite. Perhaps because I didnt really care for Abby. Some sympathy for her nightmares, but on the whole... I suspect this book willl do far better than my review portends. Just not for me.

wonderful read...could not put down

I received an advanced copy of this book in electronic format from in exchange for an honest review. This review is also posted to This was an engaging read from start to finish, interweaving a past and present day mystery. The main character, Abby, returns to her childhood home in Minnesota to put an end to her recurring nightmares; nightmares that she eventually finds out are related to a tragic family event years ago. Meanwhile, she conveniently runs into her former high-school crush to find her feelings haven't changed much although she has a serious though non-committed boyfriend back home in L.A. The former crush himself is on the hunt for a serial rapist that is poised to strike again any day; could his sights be set on Abby? The switch to the past and back is gripping and the stories unfold generously, although it was hard to keep all the names & relationships straight at the beginning.

Beautifully written novel. It was so difficult to put the book down as I got caught up in the emotion and intrigue of the characters.

I enjoyed the tie in between Abby and Claire's stories and the vivid imagery that the author uses however I felt that the story fell flat for the first few chapters of the book. It was hard to make heads or tails about what was going on with the characters and to make a connection and want to know more. It was a struggle to get there, but once there I was captivated. The relationship between Abby and the detective felt coerced and forced at times as well. I would be interested in seeing what else the author can come up with. The talent is definitely there, but just needs some creative editing.

I have to say that the first part of the book is more like 1-2 stars, but as I considered giving up on it, I read the reviews other readers posted and I couldn't believe it was about the same book. So I kept reading and lo and behold, it did get to a point, halfway or so through the last of the book where I had to keep reading and put off doing anything else for a bit longer because I needed to find out what happens. So yes, if you can make it through the slowness and confusion in the beginning, it turns into quite a thrilling story.

It took me a few chapters to get a handle on this book. Once I did I enjoyed it. Abby was nice but I was more interested in the past. The ending was both anti climatic and too convoluted to really work. I ended up disappointed.

I really wanted to like this book. I loved the premise and wanted to find out the secrets of Abby and Claire. I think there were just too many details and jumps for me to get into it. I'd find myself skipping ahead a little because I got bored of all the sensory descriptions, then I wouldn't know who they were referring to. The jumps between two different time periods and four different characters didn't help. I got about halfway through (which took about 2 weeks to do) and got frustrated enough that I stopped reading. Maybe I can read the cliff notes to find out what happened!

This time-hoping thriller got me hooked from the very first chapter and didn’t let go until I got to the tragic ending. Sardar does a fantastic job of weaving a tale between two very different eras without it ever feeling forced. The jumps from “then” to “now” and back again all happen in moments within the story where it makes sense to explore another character or location; like little sanity breaks in the intensity. My one gripe is that leading lady Abby felt a bit weak character-wise, but I can sort of excuse it if you only look at her as a catalyst for telling the story of the more interesting characters. Overall, it’s a solid story with interesting mystery and suspense elements.

Initially I didn't care for this book. I had trouble following the storyline and was confused by the constant quick change between characters. I am really happy I continued to read. As the story continued I became very involved and found it hard to put down the book. The author's descriptive voice painted vivid scenes. The ending was perfect. I received an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

You were here by Gian Sardar was a great book. It was full of suspense and it kept me interested until the end. I'm glad I found this author and I'll be looking forward to future books.

You Were Here by Gian Sardar is two mysteries in one and a ghost story. Abby Walters suffers from paralyzing nightmares about being buried alive. When she wakes with the name Claire Ballantine on her lips, she decides to leave her home and boyfriend in L.A. and look for answers in the Minnesota town where she grew up. Aidan Mackenzie is also on Abby’s mind. Aidan was “the boy who got away in high school” and is now a police officer in Makade, pursuing a mystery of his own. Who’s raping women in this otherwise quiet town? Told in alternating stories, almost seventy years apart, You Were Here attempts to fit a lot into one book. Claire’s story and its connection to Abby are interesting and in itself, would have made a good gothic mystery. I found the Aidan-Abby reconnection and the modern-day crime drama less effective and add-ons.

This is an interesting tale that is woven together with the present and the past. Abby has been plagued with nightmares for years. The nightmare has the strange feeling of being buried alive but she knows it is just a dream. It couldn't be more than that, could it? The story is mesmerizing. The difference between the past and the present is narrowing and suddenly they become the same story, or do they? I really enjoyed the storyline and stayed up late trying to finish it quicker. Great read.

3.5 stars because the beginning and then the unresolve I felt at the end. Format: ebook (protected PDF) Tissue warning: no HEA: implied Triggers: Cheating, a serial rapist on the loose (we don't read any of the action, just that it happened, and to none of the main characters) Narrative: Third person, following multiple characters, and alternating past and present My reviewer rating: 3.5 out of 5. Recommend read: yes, get through the first half, and you will be totally engrossed Published: May 16, 2017 The blurb pulled me as I was reading through the list on, and I knew I just had to read this book, so I requested it. It sounded so different from what I've been reading lately, and I needed something different. Well, come March 21st, I definitely got something different. I received my e-mail saying that I could download the book! Yay! Then, boooooo . . . I was not feeling the first half of this story. Seriously, the beginning was confusing and it dragged for me. The writing was too formal and I had a hard time getting it to flow as I read in my head. Changing POV's and going from past to present was just too much for a while, and I couldn't keep up. But just as I got to the middle, 47%'ish, I *needed* to know what was going on. I actually didn't want to skip the "then" chapters to get back to the "now" chapters. Gian hooked me. But it was an awfully slow bait. [ normally I flounce when there is cheating, but since it happened so late in the story, and I was so invested by then, I let it go. I wasn't happy about it, but I let it go. But I'm giving Abby some serious side-eye. And I don't feel satiated by the ending. There's still loose ends. Did Gian do this on purpose? Are we not supposed to know if Abby ever actually calls it off with Robert? He deserves that. What really was the deal with the ring and the butterfly bottle necklace? Will anyone ever figure out who Eleonor is besides the reader? All this time, we're reading about the serial rapist, and for some reason I thought it was supposed to tie into the story, but it didn't. It was its own separate storyline. [ It took me almost a week to read this. 4 days for the first half, and 24-hours to get through the second half. Good job, Gian.


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