Thursday, March 29, 2012

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley

Publisher: Antheneum Books for Young Readers
Pages: 288Series or Stand Alone: Stand Alone
Summary: (from goodreads) 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.
While Cullen navigates his way through a summer of finding and losing love, holding his fragile family together, and muddling his way into adulthood, a young missionary in Africa, who has lost his faith, is searching for any semblance of meaning wherever he can find it. As distant as the two stories seem at the start, they are thoughtfully woven ever closer together and through masterful plotting, brought face to face in a surprising and harrowing climax.
Complex but truly extraordinary, tinged with melancholy and regret, comedy and absurdity, this novel finds wonder in the ordinary and emerges as ultimately hopeful. It's about a lot more than what Cullen calls, “that damn bird.” It’s about the dream of second chances.

Where Things Come Back was this year’s Printz Medal winner, so I decided it was important to check it out. One day I aspire to have every Printz Medal winner read (right now I’m at 7 of 13), so this helped with that goal as well.
This was an example of a mystery very well done. I had know idea what happened with Gabriel or what the thing was with the woodpecker until I was told--there was no way to guess the turn of events that goes down. The story is divided in two and these two pieces appear to have nothing to do with one another (time seems to move at a different pace in both, the two are not occurring parallel to one another) until they are woven together perfectly at the end. This was definitely the strongest part of the novel; as soon as the two pieces were woven together, I could not put the book down.

Does it deserve the Printz Medal?
Most definitely. I didn’t feel the need to race through it in order to discover what happened, but the story was incredibly well crafted and the mystery was compelling enough to carry the story through both sides.

Rating: 4.5 - very good.


  1. Hey, thanks for your nice comment on my TTT. I'm glad you're starting the book! Exciting! Also, I'm doing a giveaway of Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver if you want to enter. Thanks!