Monday, February 13, 2012

Review: Where Things Come Back

Author: John Corey Whaley
Publish date: 2011
Source: Library
"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 recently won both the Printz and Morris awards at ALA midwinter; an author has never won both in the same year before. Honestly, I would not have picked this book up had it not won the awards and had Ginger at G Reads not told everyone of her love of it. After finishing it, I'm not positive on my feelings, but I'll give it my best shot.

Ok, let's be frank here: I hate the cover. Definitely would not have picked this up based on the cover. I don't think it appeals to a YA audience (or me, apparently), and I honestly don't think the synopsis makes it sound that interesting, so this is a prime example of me reading a book because others loved it. Up until the last 40 pages, I really had no idea how everything was going to come together. There are a lot of characters and a few different storylines throughout the novel, and at first, they all seemed so different, but of course, everything was intertwined.

I enjoyed learning about most of the characters, especially Lucas, Gabriel, and Cullen. Even though there were a lot of simultaneous narratives, they were all pretty interesting, especially toward the end when I could tell that something big was going to happen (since the book was ending soon). I'll admit that it could be confusing sometimes, but I know that the story couldn't just focus on Cullen. I liked the story's themes and am curious to see what else Mr. Whaley will produce in the future.

I'll be giving a book talk on WTCB this week to my freshmen; I'm curious to see what they think of it! I'm hoping the small town atmosphere will appeal to them since we are a very small town too.

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