September 25, 2012

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley

Title: Where Things Come Back
Author: John Corey Whaley
Ships launched: 909
Pages: 228
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (part of Simon & Schuster)
Year published: 2011
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Mystery
Synopsis: Just when seventeen-year-old Cullen Witter thinks he understands everything about his small and painfully dull Arkansas town, it all disappears. . . . 
In the summer before Cullen's senior year, a nominally-depressed birdwatcher named John Barling thinks he spots a species of woodpecker thought to be extinct since the 1940s in Lily, Arkansas. His rediscovery of the so-called Lazarus Woodpecker sparks a flurry of press and woodpecker-mania. Soon all the kids are getting woodpecker haircuts and everyone's eating "Lazarus burgers." But as absurd as the town's carnival atmosphere has become, nothing is more startling than the realization that Cullen’s sensitive, gifted fifteen-year-old brother Gabriel has suddenly and inexplicably disappeared.

I must say, John Corey Whaley crafted an absolutely amazing debut YA novel here, and I'm not the only one who thinks so. Where Things Come Back has already won the William C. Morris Debut Award and the Michael L. Printz Award. (Pretty impressive, right?)

Bad things: The plot was a little slow; it wasn't exactly a page-turner.

That's it. That's my list of bad things.

The originality in this novel is a breath of fresh air with all of the copycat YA books out there. The synopsis doesn't seem like much, but it is. Trust me.  
If you had to summarize the entire book in one sentence, it would be this: Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley tells the story of a young boy's disappearance from a small town in Arkansas.
Now, if you've read the book, you would know that that does not even begin to describe it. This story is about so many other things, like sadness and life and the world. So much ground is covered in this tiny, 200 page book. 

When I first started it, some things seemed kind of random. What? Why are we talking about a missionary in Africa when we were just talking about this dude's brother? It seems like there are two completely different story lines, but Whaley weaves them together so intricately, but so simply at the same time. There is that one a-ha! moment where everything clicks into place, and then you just read and read and turn the pages as fast as you can; you have to find out what happens. 

Cullen Witter was the main character of Where Things Come Back. He is full of thoughts and curiosity. I don't really know how to describe him. He is not perfect. Of course not. But he is kind and sad and naive and foolish. He likes to make up book titles. He is immature and mature at the same time. He is Cullen Witter.

I wish Gabriel was real. I want to meet him. He is so innocent and he seems so wise and kind; his music and his t-shirts and everything about him is, like his brother, full of thoughts. 

All of the characters were fleshed out and real (except maybe the Quit Man). You could see who they really were and how they got to be that way. 

As I mentioned before, Whaley's writing was a little slow, but it worked really well with the plot and the characters. The story intrigued me.

I would highly, highly recommend Where Things Come Back. Trust me, you'll like it. 

+18 - Isn't the cover just gorgeous?

+16 - Cullen's book titles. I loved every single one of them. Can I see his whole list, John Corey Whaley? Pretty please?

+13 - All of the interesting stare/look phrases. Ex: "He had that waiting-for-me-to-give-in-to-his-odd-request-and-just-go-with-the-flow sort of look on his face." (173) Whaley put quite a lot of those into this book, no matter whose point of view he was writing from. I've never seen so many used so often in a book before, and they kind of defined Whaley's writing style.

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