Monday, September 3, 2012

Where Things Come Back

“Where Things Come Back” isn’t one of your stereotypical feel good young adult novels. Author,
John Corey Whaley, grabs you right from the get go and throws you right to the wolves. On the very first page, seventeen year old Cullen Witter sees his first dead bodies, one of them being his cousin. Instead of feeling sadness, Cullen just feels numb, knowing deep inside that this was bound to happen eventually to his no good, junkie, older cousin. And the story doesn’t get any easier from there! Within a few chapters Cullen’s younger brother and role model, Gabriel, goes missing. At first everyone thinks it’s a mistake and he’ll just come waltzing back, but as the weeks drag on, Cullen, his parents, and his best friend, Lucas slowly start to go mad, they simply don’t know how to react. To make things worse, their small town is becoming notorious for the spotting of a once thought extinct woodpecker. People flock to find a glimpse of this bird, and it tears Cullen and his family apart that more people seemingly care about finding this stupid bird then they do his brother.

Throughout the novel Cullen tries nearly everything to escape the hurt and bewilderment about the loss of his brother, he tries to escape in sex, in his brother’s room and music, in Lucas’ crazy kidnapping ideas but nothing works. It’s a gut-wrenching journey that the reader feels in the pit of his/her stomach as we wait eagerly to see how it all turns out. Whaley beautifully illustrates the character’s emotions, so much so, that sometimes we forget that we aren’t a character in this book. It is easy to get lost in this painful journey.

The story is also made more interesting by the occasional side chapters by other minor characters. At first the purpose isn’t clear but as the story goes on they have an interesting way of being the missing puzzle pieces that help put together the larger picture.

Overall, I think that this is a fantastic book for teenagers. It is engaging, addresses a plethora of issues: family problems, the loss of a sibling, teen sex, stereotypes, high school problems, etc. There is something that everyone can easily relate to. Even though the story is told through the eyes of a high school boy, girls would have no problems relating with many of his problems. The story was well written, kept the reader hanging, age appropriate (since basically anything goes with teenagers these days), and had a unique story pattern that kept the plot hurtling forward. I think that this was well deserving of the Printz award. 

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