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Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley
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Where Things Come Back (2011)

by John Corey Whaley

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I enjoyed this book in the beginning. I thought, at first, that it was very well written and thought-provoking, but as I continued reading, my praises for this book steadily declined. I began to notice that the writing style continuously flip-flopped between first and third person and it drove me crazy! There were no warnings that this transition would happen, I would just be reading in first person and then BAM! third person. So overall, I absolutely loathed the style of writing in this book.

Another downfall to this book was the ending. For those of you who have not read this book STOP READING THIS RIGHT NOW. There will be SPOILERS.

So I decided to push through this book despite the grotesque style of writing and found myself liking the “idea” of the book. Just a FYI, I was reading this book on my Kindle and knew that I was about 90% done. I started wondering what could possibly happen in the next 10% of the book. And then…it happened. His brother came back! It was like a glorious appearing and I loved how it made me feel. I began to wonder what would happen next; would he explain to his brother what happened to him and how he was set free or even how he got away? I was anticipating answers to all of these questions. Then I turned the page. Acknowledgments. WHAT?! No. My heart broke. Hence the reason why this book only gets three stars from me. Great idea, poorly executed and the ending was just a huge letdown. ( )
  Wonderland_Books | May 2, 2015 |
This book is written in such a personal way, where the reader feels like he/she knows the main character. The thoughts are shared on an intimate level through its specific opinions or observations of what is going on. This results in a beautifully written book with a lot of different things to the main character needs to balance out and get through.

For example, during the narration it says, "All he knew was that he had to carry on the work that God had, in his vision, ascribed to Benton. He had to somehow change the world." This alone is a powerful vision the main character has and gives great insight on what he feels called to do. This isn't an ordinary book where events that occur happen on the surface with nothing deeper mentioned such as visions, thoughts, or callings. This transparency with the character Cullen makes me appreciate this book that much more.

A second example is when the text says, "Didn't he know that all I felt like doing was fading into the background? Leaning against a wall and disappearing into it? Lying on the couch, hoping the cushions would swallow me up?" This is how Cullen felt after his brother disappeared and his father paid him any personal interest for the first time. His father kept pushing him to research colleges and think about his future. Cullen's thoughts reveal how irritated he is with his father and how focused he is on wanting to see his brother again. It is another example of personal thoughts that create a more in depth character.

The main idea of this book is to present a young teenaged boy's journey in high school with traumatic events such as his gifted younger brother suddenly disappears. It is a journey into adulthood and how he perseveres through everything. ( )
  GinaBayne | Dec 1, 2014 |
Cullen Witter's summer before his Senior year promises to be as boring as ever in small Arkansas. He works in a convenience store, has pretty normal parents, and a younger brother, Gabriel, who's so close to him, that people think they're twins.

Everything changes when a visiting ornithologist spots the long-extinct Lazarus Woodpecker, Cullen's cousin overdoses and, worst of all, his beloved brother disappears.

Cullen's story is cross-cut with the story of Benton Sage, a troubled missionary. Although totally dissimilar, the two stories eventually come together with satisfactory twists and turns.

The voice in this book is incredible: at turns, funny, sad, insightful. It is such a beautifully-wrought look at grief (Cullen for his brother) that it made this reader cry.

Teens may have trouble bringing the two stories together (Cullen's is more compelling than Benton's) but those who persevere will be rewarded with a great Coming of Age tale. ( )
  mjspear | Sep 30, 2014 |
I loved John Corey Whaley's new book, _Noggin_, and after I finished it, I realized I needed to go back and read _Where Things Come Back_, his first novel, which had been on my "to read" list for several years.

As the novel opens, Cullen Witter is in the local morgue, identifying the body of his older cousin, Oslo, who's died of an overdose. To Cullen, Oslo's death is more evidence of the dead-end nature of his small Arkansas town, which no one seems capable of leaving or transcending.

Then two things happen that shake up both Cullen's family and Lily, Arkansas, that summer: first, Cullen's younger brother Gabriel vanishes without a trace, and then an ornithological zealot named John Barling shows up, saying he's had a vision that the long-extinct Lord God bird--the ivory-billed woodpecker--has come back to life and is living on the river near Lily. News media and birdwatchers pour into town, searching for a bird that probably doesn't exist, while the search for the very real Gabriel leads nowhere.

Whaley's novel is incredibly well structured, and the many plot lines and characters that seem so disparate at the outset eventually come together in a convincing and unexpected way. While I didn't find this book as humorous or as touching, ultimately, as _Noggin_, I really enjoyed it. Whaley has a gift for portraying the interior life of his teenage-boy characters, and especially their oddball friendships; in _Where Things Come Back_, we see how such friendships can go horribly wrong, in one scenario, and also how they can be a lifeline, in the case of the friendship between Cullen and his friend Lucas. ( )
  rvhatha | Sep 14, 2014 |
I had some trouble with the pacing in certain parts of this book, but I thought it had a great plot. I gasped at least ten times while reading it; everything fit together surprisingly well while still conveying emotion and using realistic characters. ( )
  marielreads | Jun 20, 2014 |
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For Anita Cooper, teacher and friend
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I was seventeen years old when I saw my first dead body.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Seventeen-year-old Cullen's summer in Lily, Arkansas, is marked by his cousin's death by overdose, an alleged spotting of a woodpecker thought to be extinct, failed romances, and his younger brother's sudden disappearance.

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