Monday, August 13, 2012

Book Review: Where Things Come Back, by John Corey Whaley

Hmmmm.. Where Things Come Back is an interesting story with some unique elements that I enjoyed. I wasn't blown away by it, as I know many people were.

There are two unique and disparate story lines throughout the book and the way that they come together at the end could never be predicted. This feature was the best part of Where Things Come Back for me.

Cullen is going to be a senior in high school. He has a best friend, Lucas, who is very different than Cullen (popular, athletic, etc) but they for some reason have a deep bond. Cullen also has a younger brother, Gabriel, who is very smart and unique and therefore doesn't have many friends.

His brother suddenly disappears, and no one can figure out anything about his disappearance. It is totally unexplained, and Cullen and his family are very upset, depressed, frustrated, and all those other emotions that you can imagine. Adding to their distress is that fact that a stranger has come to town and claimed to have seen a type of woodpecker that has been extinct for a long time. This small Arkansas town is so excited about this claim to fame that they can't pay much attention to a missing teen.

Meanwhile, we begin a tale about a teenage missionary to Africa, that has far-reaching consequences (and I mean far, far reaching) for Gabriel and his family. The story goes back and forth between these two plot lines, and very creatively comes together in a somewhat distressing ending.

The characters are interesting. I wouldn't say any of the teens portrayed in Where Things Come Back are typical. They are misfits and the characterizations are interesting.  Some of the woodpecker story line is a bit tongue-in-cheek, and makes the entire book seem more lighthearted than it should. These conflicting emotions made me a bit uncomfortable. Part of the book was so stupid, but then there's this serious part about a teen being abducted. Maybe this is the feeling that Whaley is going for.

The book is short and moves at a steady pace, so it wasn't difficult to finish. I liked the way it ended. I feel kind of ambivalent about Where Things Come Back. I enjoyed it, but I don't think this one will stay with me. I'm also going to have to hand pick readers for Where Things Come Back. I don't think it has wide appeal for teens -- which often seems to be the case for award winning YA titles.

Published byAtheneum, 2011
Copy obtained from the library
240 pages (qualifies for my Books You Can Read in a Day Challenge!)

Rating: 3/5

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  1. I am so glad to know I am not alone in my opinion of this book. I thought it was pretty good, but was surprised that it won so many awards

  2. I've heard many good things about this book and the two plot lines sound very interesting. Great review!

  3. I felt kind of let down after reading this one, too. I think the ending really changed it around for me, but I'm a bit surprised it won both the Morris and the Printz.


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