Where Things Come Back

John Corey Whaley

Where Things Come Back
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Where Things Come Back

John Corey Whaley

Winner of the 2012 Michael L. Printz and William C. Morris Awards, this poignant and hilarious story of loss and redemption explores the process of grief, second chances, and even the meaning of life (Kirkus Reviews). In the remarkable, bizarre, and heart-wrenching summer before Cullen Witter’s senior year of high school, he is forced to examine everything he thinks he understands about his small and painfully dull Arkansas town. His cousin overdoses; his town becomes absurdly obsessed with the alleged reappearance of an extinct woodpecker; and most troubling of all, his sensitive, gifted fifteen-year-old brother, Gabriel, suddenly and inexplicably disappears. Meanwhile, the crisis of faith spawned by a young missionary’s disillusion in Africa prompts a frantic search for meaning that has far-reaching consequences. As distant as the two stories initially seem, they are woven together through masterful plotting and merge in a surprising and harrowing climax. This extraordinary tale from a rare literary voice finds wonder in the ordinary and illuminates the hope of second chances.

Review

john-corey-whalen-revCullen Witter lives in a small town called Lily in the state of Arkansas, USA. It’s a dull place where nothing ever happens, except, that is, for this summer.

First off, Cullen’s cousin, Oslo, dies of a drug overdose, leaving his aunty a mess. Then a visitor to Lily claims to have sighted the extinct Lazarus Woodpecker, causing everyone in town to become obsessed with the elusive bird. And then Gabriel, Cullen’s much-loved brother disappears. This summer, it seems, is full of things going missing or coming back.

In another part of the world, a young missionary finds himself sent to Africa to do work with poverty-stricken families. It’s here that he starts to question the path that he’s on, and it’s here also that his life becomes entwined with Cullen’s in a way that one would never imagine.

This is an intelligent and interesting debut that, for some reason, reminded me of John Green, as both he and Whaley are clearly not afraid to write something different and quirky for a young adult readership. A great book for both boys and girls, aged 14 and up.


Katherine Dretzke is a bookseller at Readings Hawthorne.

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