Where Things Come Back

Where Things Come Back

Book rating: 04 Paperback

By (author) John Corey Whaley

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  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
  • Format: Paperback | 228 pages
  • Dimensions: 140mm x 208mm x 18mm | 272g
  • Publication date: 1 September 2012
  • Publication City/Country: New York, NY
  • ISBN 10: 1442413344
  • ISBN 13: 9781442413344
  • Sales rank: 6,955

Product description

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.

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Author information

John Corey Whaley grew up in a small southern town. He has a BA from Louisiana Tech University and an MA in secondary English education. Where Things Come Back "is his first novel.

Customer reviews

By Maja (The Nocturnal Library) 10 Jan 2013 4

Where Things Come Back is such an unassuming little book. It's like that small, quiet kid in class other kids never even notice, but if they did, they'd see that he is well-read and fiercely intelligent and has a bright future ahead of him.


In Lily, Arkansas, Cullen Witter is living his average life with his average parents and his not-so-average younger brother. He works at a grocery store, doesn't really understand girls and is generally pretty socially awkward. Then one day Cullen's brother Gabriel disappears without a trace and his whole life gets turned upside down. To add insult to injury, the people in Lily are more obsessed with a supposedly extinct woodpecker than with a missing sixteen-year-old.

On the other side of the world, Benton Sage is having doubts about the nature of his mission in Africa. He feels that handing out food and a prayer isn't enough to save people. He wants to do God's work, and passing out food, water and Christ as quickly and efficiently as possible seems far too simple and not nearly enough.

The two stories come together in a very unexpected way that is sure to take your breath away.

Whaley has an amazing talent for telling extremely dramatic stories in a decidedly non-dramatic way. Throughout the book, Cullen seems oddly detached, almost unfeeling, but even when you catch glimpses of his emotions, they're not outbursts but rather quiet confessions from a character who would much rather remain unnoticed. This character, and most Whaley's characters, really, are amazing in their simplicity and all of them are unique, from desperate mothers to religious fanatics.

Although it won both the William C. Morris Award and the Michael L. Printz Award, Where Things Come Back is not for everyone. It has the feel of a classic and I'm certain it's on its way to become one, but like all classics, it requires a certain amount of patience and trust in its author. If you have that, this beautiful little literary gem will undoubtedly find its place among your favorites.

Review quote

"Every now and then a book rises to the top. "Where Things Come Back" soars. Keep your eye on author Corey Whaley. That is, if you can see the stratosphere."--Ellen Hopkins, New York Times bestselling author of the Crank Trilogy