Monday, January 7, 2013

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley
July 2012, Atheneum Books for Young Readers
256 pages
Good Reads + Amazon
4/5 stars

"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.

The extraordinary tale from a rare literary voice finds wonder in the ordinary and illuminates the hope of second chances."
-Good Reads

Alright guys, I'm going to try out a new reviewing format and Where Things Come Back is going to act as my guinea pig! Basically, I'm attempting to hammer down a format (synopsis, character, plot, themes, over all thoughts, recommendations) to stop my reviews from rambling and sprouting into a thousand different tangents. Let me know what you think of the new format (if you actually have an opinion of it...) and any suggestions that will make my reviews better! Thanks!

Now, onto Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley...

The one and only problem that I had with this book was Cullen Witter's voice. Like the synopsis hinted at, Cullen Witter is our protagonist and we see about... 80% of the story through his eyes and in his voice. We hear his conversations from his perspective and are privy to all of his thoughts and opinions about the circumstances in his life and the events that have transpired. Unfortunately... Cullen Witter happens to be a quintessential teenager. That is - self absorbed, judgmental, often condescending, and given over to periodic fits of angst. I often found myself rolling my eyes at him and sometimes even skimming through sections of his internal ramblings.

That isn't to say that Cullen is an irredeemable character. Granted, he is young and (seventeen?) going through the tragedy of losing not only his sibling, but also his best friend. I can let some of his angst slide... but for the most part, I felt as though I was reading about a jerk kid. If I had been 18 while reading this, I think that my opinions of Cullen would be much different. He would have been an easy character to relate to and would have my sympathy... But as a 20 something? Most of the time, I wanted to smack him upside the head and tell him to get over himself.

As for the secondary and minor characters? For the most part, I adored them. Whaley didn't show us much of Gabriel, Cullen's little brother, before his disappearance... so almost every conclusion that I drew about him was based off of other characters' opinions and anecdotes surrounding the missing teenager. I liked that. I enjoyed having to sift through Cullen's memories in order to form as true of a picture of Gabriel as possible (which, subsequently, led me to form wrong conclusions surrounding his disappearance, but more on that later). As far as Benton Sage goes... I wish that Whaley had focused on his story a bit more. While Cullen is an easy character for older teens to relate to, I felt as though Benton was an easier character to sympathize with because of my age. I understood his struggles having been there myself. 

The plot was nicely paced although there were definitely places in which it felt ramble-y. I enjoyed the parallel stories and was totally shocked about Gabriel and his disappearance (SPOILER, DO NOT READ - who else thought that Gabriel ran away?? END SPOILER!) Like I said, I would have enjoyed hearing more about Benton and what happened to him... but there is nothing that I can do to change that.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. I found that the themes (redemption, second chances, false hope, retaining faith, reality vs. idealism, etc.) resonated with me in a big, big way... but I won't go into much detail about that (but if you are curious and would like to discuss the themes, leave me a comment =]). I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys stories similar to The Perks of Being A Wallflower and Catcher in the Rye.

Well, that's all for now. I have no idea what to read next. Any suggestions?

PS - If you have read this book, do me a favor. Grab your copy and re-read the last page or two. Is this scene real or imagined? I can't decide!

Happy reading!

1 comment:

  1. I love the Perks! As an almost 17 year old I guess the main character won't be as annoying to me! Haha I will add this to the long TBR