Where Things Come Back

Where Things Come Back

Book - 2011
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Winner of the 2012 Michael L. Printz and William C. Morris Awards, this poignant and hilarious story of loss and redemption "explores the process of grief, second chances, and even the meaning of life" ( Kirkus Reviews ).

In the remarkable, bizarre, and heart-wrenching summer before Cullen Witter's senior year of high school, he is forced to examine everything he thinks he understands about his small and painfully dull Arkansas town. His cousin overdoses; his town becomes absurdly obsessed with the alleged reappearance of an extinct woodpecker; and most troubling of all, his sensitive, gifted fifteen-year-old brother, Gabriel, suddenly and inexplicably disappears.
Meanwhile, the crisis of faith spawned by a young missionary's disillusion in Africa prompts a frantic search for meaning that has far-reaching consequences. As distant as the two stories initially seem, they are woven together through masterful plotting and merge in a surprising and harrowing climax.
This extraordinary tale from a rare literary voice finds wonder in the ordinary and illuminates the hope of second chances.
Publisher: New York : Atheneum Books for Young Readers, c2011.
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9781442413337
Branch Call Number: YA WHALEY J
Characteristics: 228 pages ; 22 cm.
Alternative Title: Where things come back


From Library Staff

Cullen Witter's younger brother suddenly goes missing in a town that's obsessed with a rare woodpecker. Whaley weaves a complex, but engaging story with a surprising and hopeful climax.

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Nov 07, 2016

This book was my favorite book for a while, and continues to leave me in tears every time I read it over again. I really enjoy stories with depressing tones hidden beneath fake smiles and trips to the river to numb ones self from the pain. Where Things Come Back is basically my ideal book, and I really hope John Corey Whaley makes more like it.

This book won approximately ten bajillion awards and all for very good reason. I related very much with Cullen, a sullen teen stuck in a small town in Arkansas and one of the book's main characters. The way the book shifts perspectives, without giving too much away, is genius, and I was drawn into this world and the mystery until the very end. Don't miss this one!

Sep 04, 2014

Where Things Come Back is a beautifully bizarre novel filled with first loves, obsessions, and tales of an extinct woodpecker. Cullen Witter, this novel’s protagonist is a seventeen year old boy who can’t wait to get of his small and seemingly uninteresting hometown of Lily, Arkansas. But after his cousin Oslo overdoses, Cullen’s knowledge of his town, family, and himself, disappear completely. The whole town suddenly takes a large interest in the suspected return of an extinct woodpecker, dedicating haircuts and burgers to the creature. This annoyed Cullen, and he would usually seek the words of his abnormally wise younger brother Gabriel to explain all the madness. But devastatingly, his smart sibling had somehow disappeared out of plain sight. This starts Cullen’s process of dealing with a missing sibling, and the uncertainty that comes with it. Meanwhile Benton Sage, a missionary in Africa, sets out on a search for faith in his hardest times. As the novel goes on, Cullen and Benton’s stories intertwine seamlessly to form an unexpected, thrilling, and satisfying ending.
John Corey Whaley writes humor, wisdom, angst and sophistication into the voice of a seventeen year old. His poetic style can be compared to no other, and every character’s tale is crafted beautifully. As for the title, I feel like it speaks for itself. A reappearing woodpecker, the hope for a returned boy, and many returned loves and feelings. This novel, a surprising masterpiece from start to finish, features a town full of those things that can only be known as one thing: the town where things come back.

Jul 30, 2014

Where Things Come Back is extremely intriguing, unique, and relatable, so much so that I finished it in less than a day. If you enjoy surprises and plot twists, this book is for you. This novel covers so many of today's major topics, such as religion and loss, allowing for a seamless connection between characters and readers. Moreover, the symbolism and depth to the story was amazing, and I love seeing how the two different stories (that you would never expect to relate) merge. All in all, Where Things Come Back is very deserving of its awards!

May 30, 2014

Apparently I'm on a "weird books about boys" streak. I don't quite know what I thought about this book (I guess I'm still processing). The story is told in two parts: that of an average small-town boy, Cullen Witter, and that of a lonely missionary Benton Sage (and later Cabot Searcy). The parts do eventually come back together. Two strange events converge the summer after Cullen's Junior year in high school, the illusive (possibly imaginary) Lazarus woodpecker is spotted in Cullen's hometown and his younger brother Gabriel goes missing. The story weaves between the emotions of losing a sibling and the strangeness of being 17.

I just don't know if it worked...for me. I understand what the author was trying to go for, but I never really grew attached to any of the characters. It was only a little over 200 pages, so maybe the lack of depth was what had me looking for more?

I would recommend this to: mystery seekers, those who like contemporary fiction, stories of friendship, stories about siblings.

May you enjoy it more than I. Hey it won a Printz for goodness sake, someone obviously liked it!

Jan 02, 2013

I enjoyed this book, despite the second storyline that didn't make sense until the end. It was interesting to see the dynamics of a family who has lost a son and the way that this might affect a teenage boy and his friends. I wish that it hadn't ended so abruptly, but it was nice to hang out in Cullen's head for a little while, even if he did have some strange quirks.

Aug 25, 2012

Fabulously written. Unique story. Random and quirky, which I like a lot. Favorite quotation: "Life, he says, doesn't have to be so bad all the time. We don't have to be so anxious about everything. We can just be. We can get up, anticipate that the day will probably have a few good moments and a few bad ones, and then just deal with it. Take it all in and deal as best we can (p. 127)."

m2 Apr 02, 2012

Bizarre and beautiful. The book of Enoch? The Lazarus bird? A quadriplegic ex-boyfriend? You must read it to appreciate it.

jazs Feb 22, 2012

2012 Michael L. Printz winner


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Nov 07, 2016

blue_fish_824 thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over


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