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Where Things Come Back
by John Corey Whaley

Overview -

2012 Winner of the Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature


Just when seventeen-year-old Cullen Witter thinks he understands everything about his small and painfully dull Arkansas town, it all disappears.
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More About Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley
 
 
 
Overview

2012 Winner of the Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature


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 junior year, a nominally-depressed birdwatcher named John Barling thinks he spots the ivory-billed woodpecker--a species 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.

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9781442413337
  • ISBN-10: 1442413336
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books
  • Publish Date: May 2011
  • Page Count: 228
  • Reading Level: Ages 14-UP


Related Categories

Books > Juvenile Fiction > Social Issues - General
Books > Juvenile Fiction > Family - General

 
Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2011-04-11
  • Reviewer: Staff

In this darkly humorous debut, Whaley weaves two stories into a taut and well-constructed thriller. Acerbic 17-year-old aspiring writer Cullen Witter narrates the first, bemoaning the tedium of smalltown life ("Living in Lily, Arkansas, is sometimes like living in the land that time forgot"), until the Lazarus woodpecker, thought to be extinct, allegedly reappears, and his 15-year-old brother, Gabriel, goes missing. The alternating story line, told in an ominous third-person voice, begins with the story of Benton Sage—a failed teenage missionary, who leaves Ethiopia for the University of Atlanta—but it soon veers in unexpected directions as the action converges on the town of Lily. Vulnerability balances Cullen's arch sarcasm, and the maelstrom of media attention lavished on the woodpecker offers an element of the absurd, especially when juxtaposed against the mystery of Gabriel's disappearance. The portentous tone and flat affect of Whaley's writing is well-suited to the story's religious themes and symbolism (Gabriel, the Lazarus woodpecker, the apocryphal Book of Enoch), as Whaley gradually brings the story's many threads together in a disturbing, heartbreaking finale that retains a touch of hope. Ages 14–up. (May)

 
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