Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley

Where Things Come Back
by John Corey Whaley

Paperback, 256 pages
Published July 24, 2012 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers (First edition published in 2011)
Genre: Realistic Fiction, Mystery
Awards: Michael L. Printz Award, 2012
               YALSA William C. Morris YA Debut Award,
               YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults, 2012

MLA: Whaley, John Corey. Where Things Come Back. New York: Atheneum, 2012. Print. ISBN-13: 978-1442413344. Paperback, $11.99.

Find it in your local library!

Cullen Witter’s summer has been completely upset by a series of strange and unfortunate events in his hometown of Lily, Arkansas – his cousin’s death, his little brother’s disappearance, and the supposed return of a rare bird to Lily that was thought to be extinct. A world away, young missionary Benton Sage suffers a major crisis of faith and searches desperately for meaning in his life. Cullen and Benton’s lives unexpectedly collide with far-reaching consequences in this strange and touching story about grief, love, and hope.

People tend to stay in the small town of Lily, Arkansas; when they do leave, they eventually come back home to the lives they left behind.

Seventeen-year-old Cullen Witter plans to spend the summer in Lily, bored out of his mind with his best friend Lucas and his smart, sensitive younger brother Gabriel. When Gabriel mysteriously disappears, the close-knit Witter family is devastated, and they search for him with the desperate hope that he will return safely.

The citizens of Lily help the Witters to find Gabriel in earnest until the entire town becomes obsessed by the supposed reappearance of the Lazarus woodpecker, which was thought to be extinct until ornithologist John Bartling shows up claiming to have seen one on the outskirts of town. While Lily distracts itself in a frenzy of woodpecker commotion, Cullen grows increasingly frustrated that a stupid bird means more to people than his missing brother.

Meanwhile, a young and disillusioned missionary named Benton Sage returns home from Ethiopia believing that his talents are wasted in such a desolate place. When Benton is all but turned out by his family, his crisis of faith deepens and he dedicates himself to studying the Book of Enoch to find answers to his existential questions. When Benton’s writings fall into his college roommate’s hands, events take a strange, unsettling turn.

The worlds of these two boys collide in the harrowing final pages of the novel with a surprising and heartbreaking conclusion that examines faith, grief, and ultimately hope in Lily, the place Where Things Come Back.

This is one of the best book trailers I've seen in a while because it really captures the feel of Where Things Come Back:

John Corey Whaley made a playlist for Where Things Come Back, listed on Amazon. You can check it out here, via Apple Music.

And here's the Sufjan Stevens song about the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker in Arkansas that, according to the author, started it all:

Teen Talk

“I don't read a ton of novels, but I do like to read things like articles…what I do read [of realistic YA] is either is something interesting or something I can relate to.” -Nick K., 15

Where Things Come Back hits the mark on interesting AND relatable. I think all readers can find something to appreciate or recognize in Cullen's story. Plus, this novel is just quirky enough to be unique and interesting, but not so quirky that it feels unfamiliar. Give this one a try!

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