Monday, 12 January 2015

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley **Review**

Where Things Come Back
Series: None
Pages: 228
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Release date: May 2012
Buy: Book Depository | Amazon UK | Amazon US

Add to Goodreads

Goodreads synopsis:
In the remarkable, bizarre, and heart-wrenching summer before Cullen Witter's senior year of high school, everything he thinks he understands about his small and painfully dull Arkansas town vanishes. 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.

As Cullen navigates a summer of finding and losing love, holding his fragile family together, and muddling his way into adulthood, a young, disillusioned missionary in Africa searches for meaning wherever he can find it. And when those two stories collide, a surprising and harrowing climax emerges that is tinged with melancholy and regret, comedy and absurdity, and above all, hope.

When I went into this, I went into it almost entirely blind. I suppose I must have read the synopsis on the back at some point, but I didn't remember it. The only impression I had of the book was from a recent video review that I'd seen, where the reviewer had raved about the book and its characters.

I'm going to go straight in with the negative, so that I can get it out of the way early and focus on the positive for the rest of the review, because overall this book was a fantastic read. My only major problem I had with it – and maybe it's just me – is that I didn't realise that the alternating chapters were set at different times. I usually assume, unless it's stated in the chapter title or something, that although the chapters are alternating between different characters and storylines, they are happening simultaneously. I was quite a way through the book before I realised that this was not the case – and I only then did I realize because a fairly significant plot twist occurred. I found this quite disorientating and frustrating because I had to think over that whole storyline again and realign it with the other chapters.
But once I was over that, it was back to the good stuff.

The thing that really strikes me about this book is its abundance of fantastically life-like characters. Despite the main character having a strange name (Cullen – which, I have to admit, I quite like), they all came across as very real. I could believe in them, sympathise them, and fall for them very easily – some especially so. Cullen's brother, Gabriel, and his best friend Lucas are two examples.
I was so involved with the characters' lives, and that quickly, that when the first big plot twist happened at around page 80, I was dumbstruck. Actually, genuinely shocked. And this happened over and over again. This book has many surprises hidden within it's small volume of pages!

Not only was the plot littered with surprises, it is also unique. I suppose that looking at the main storyline, it would not be considered so different at first glance, so I suppose it's the way it's put together that makes it so special. It's all in the details! The mysterious Lazarus Woodpecker (with associated burger, motel and haircut), the failed teenage missionary and philosopher-turned-religious-fanatic roommate (also with silly names), the obscure Ethiopian bible. Add all that to the characters and you have a recipe for a wonderful read.

I really enjoyed Where Things Come Back. It pulled at my heartstrings on more than one occasion and in more than one way. It even made me nervous about the ending, because I didn't think it was going to end in a way that I'd like – and I needed it to end that way. It was an easy, but thoughtful and beautiful read, and one that I would love to read again.
Although it's a short book, what it lacks in length it most definitely makes up for in punch. Where Things Come Back should be read by every fan of contemporary YA fiction.


Carole Rae said...

Sometimes going in blind is fun

Dani Cotton said...

It is fun, and I think it paid off with this book. It was fantastic!

Post a Comment

Thank you for taking the time to comment on my blog - it is always appreciated!

Blog design installed by Sweet Dreams Design