Where Things Come Back
By John Corey Whaley
In 2012, Where Things Come Back was awarded both the Michael L. Printz and William C. Morris Awards.
The author tells two stories that seem so far removed from each other that reader is perplexed as to how they relate. When the author makes the connection, the reader is left awed.
The book opens with the line, “I was seventeen years old when I saw my first dead body.” And so begins possibly the worst summer in the life of any teenager – ever. Before things go from bad to worse, Cullen, bored with his small town, what little it seems to offer, and a future that doesn’t appear to hold much opportunity, thinks, “I knew that we were all just in the prelude to disappointment after disappointment.” This perfectly foreshadows all that is to come in the rest of the book.
Cullen’s brother goes missing. The police think the boy has most likely run away and don’t exert the effort that the family would like in their search. As serious as this is, there is quite a lot of dark humor (reminiscent of a Coen brothers movie). Meanwhile, the town is trying to prosper from the possibility that the Lazarus Woodpecker – extinct for forty years – has reappeared. All the attention given to this bird, who may or may not be real, enrages Cullen. He feels it would have been better spent searching for his brother.
The second story line involves Georgia college students, Benton and Cabot. Benton has recently returned from a failed church mission trip in Africa. His work and his writing from that time spark something in his otherwise carefree roommate, Cabot. Cabot rapidly turns into a religious zealot, spending nearly all his time obsessively studying the Ethiopian Orthodox Bible. The genius of this book is how the author ties it all together for a very satisfying conclusion.
This Youth book review was brought to you by Lisa Q. Harling. When not conducting Story Times or reading the best that kids’ authors have to offer, Lisa enjoys writing witty PSAs on Facebook, playing with her dogs and keeping up with her two adventurous sons. If you have suggestions for future book reviews, email her at email@example.com.