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Where Things Come Back Paperback – July 24, 2012
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"Every now and then a book rises to the top. Where Things Come Back soars. Keep your eye on author Corey Whaley. That is, if you can see the stratosphere." (Ellen Hopkins, New York Times bestselling author of the Crank Trilogy)
“In this darkly humorous debut, Whaley weaves two stories into a taut and well-constructed thriller…Vulnerability balances Cullen's arch sarcasm, and the maelstrom of media attention lavished on the woodpecker offers an element of the absurd, especially when juxtaposed against the mystery of Gabriel's disappearance. The portentous tone and flat affect of Whaley's writing is well-suited to the story's religious themes and symbolism… as Whaley gradually brings the story's many threads together in a disturbing, heartbreaking finale that retains a touch of hope.” (Publishers Weekly, April 11, 2011, *STAR)
“In a build-up that explores the process of grief, second chances and even the meaning of life, Cullen’s and Cabot’s worlds slowly intersect and solve the mystery of Gabriel’s disappearance in this multilayered debut for sophisticated readers. Unexpected, thought-provoking storytelling.” (Kirkus, April 15, 2011)
“The characters’ reactions are palpable as their grief deepens and yet they continue to hope for Gabriel’s return. Cullen is an eloquent, thoughtful narrator…the ending is worth the wait.” (School Library Journal, July 2011)
"The author has managed to capture his characters’ feelings of loss and despair with both compassion and empathy. The plot is extremely well thought out and encompasses the tangle of teenage relationships, friendships, and life experiences using humor and thoughtful language...authentic, small-town teenagers; and the main protagonist, Cullen, is well-developed and convincing. An unexpected ending brings about a moving close to the novel." (VOYA, June 2011)
“What will hold readers most is the moving story of Cullen’s beloved younger brother, who suddenly goes missing, leading to mystery, heartbreak, and an astonishing resolution on the very last page…An intriguing, memorable offering teens will want to discuss.” (Booklist, May 2011)
“[A] smart, darkly funny, and multilayered debut…. Whaley weaves numerous story lines and themes together with the confidence of a seasoned writer, resulting in a thought-provoking story about media, faith, and family.” (Publishers Weekly, November 7, 2011, a "Best Books of 2011" selection)
About the Author
John Corey Whaley grew up in Louisiana. His debut novel, Where Things Come Back, was the 2012 winner of the Michael L. Printz and the William C. Morris Awards. You can learn more about him at JohnCoreyWhaley.com and follow him on Twitter: @Corey_Whaley.
Top customer reviews
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Admittedly, I picked up this book solely due to buzz on some blogs and the awards it had received with little idea what it was about before turning the first page. It did take me a while to get into, but once I got hooked, I loved it. I guess because I’m not a huge fan of the mystery genre – I do like mystery, but not detective and sleuth novels. If it’s entwined in a larger plot I tend to enjoy it more – and that is what happened with ‘Where Things Come Back.’
The symbolism in this book is massive – and if you read them right, there is a depth in meaning reflecting society, attitude and the mystical. But the narrative also feels lazy, indicative of the slow paced townsfolk, and I have to believe that was on purpose to bring an ambiance around this tale.
There is a certain dry, dark undertone, just as there is a resilience, maturity and sense of fate. All of which make this novel literature, as opposed to a mass market paperback. I enjoyed the elements of sophistication, but appreciated that on the surface it’s a story about a boy hoping to find his kidnapped brother, frustrated at the towns distracted mentality around the celebrity of the Lazarus Woodpecker.
I did enjoy the ending – and it kept me guessing right up until the end. With a contemporary you can never be completely confident of the outcome. But the conclusion wraps everything up succinctly in a way that echoes in your head for a while afterward.
It could be a little busy for a younger audience, not necessarily understanding the nuances of the story. Plus that dryness I mentioned, slowed the pace somewhat, where on occasion I wanted to skip forward. I was also frustrated in some parts – masterfully elicited by the narrative – which diminished my enjoyment level because I like to escape with uplifting stories through my reading.
This is a great book, something I would recommend to read. There is boatloads of meaning hidden beneath its words, a quaint story, but not the most enjoyable read. But I’m glad to have added it to my collection. I can see why it has won the awards it has.
Interwoven with Cullen’s narration is the story of Georgia missionary Benton Sage and the unexpected ways in which his discovery of an abandoned religious text changes the course of his life and those around him. As their timelines converge, it becomes clear the way in which the smallest acts affect history.
Where Things Come Back is John Corey Whaley’s first novel, earning him the Michael L. Printz Award and William C. Morris Debut Award in 2012. Whaley’s greatest achievement is bringing teenage protagonist Cullen to life. His unique narrative voice shapes the novel as Cullen attempts to grapple with his grief. Smart, sarcastic, and imaginative, Cullen frequently day dreams dark and fantastic scenarios in which he converses with woodpeckers, bullies receive their due, and Gabriel returns home. Where Things Come Back is an engaging story about family, fate, and faith that keeps readers engrossed until the last page.
Reviewed by Grayce Jones
This book takes place in Lily, Arkansas, a little town in the middle of nowhere over the course of a summer. At the beginning of summer before Cullen Witter's senior year of high school, his cousin overdoses, his town becomes obsessed with the alleged reappearance of an extinct woodpecker, and his younger brother Gabriel, goes missing. Though I wouldn't believe that a story of loss could be both absurd and heartfelt, this book does a wonderful job of doing both.
At the same time, the story also follows a missionary in Africa who is searching for meaning of whatever he can find. These stories collide in a very surprising way—one that I was not expecting. For a while, I was wondering what on earth this missionary had to do with Cullen Witter's story, but as I soon found out, he does play an important part.
I loved this book. It is filled with moments that made me laugh, and moments that made me sad. If you are a fan of John Green's books, then you would love this book!
Most recent customer reviews
For discussion/academic settings, it's a "4-star".Read more