This debut novel by John Corey Whaley has been making its way onto all kinds of must read lists that I have come across. It is the winner of both the Michael L. Printz award in young adult literature and the William C. Morris Debut award from the American Library Association. While it is a darkly comic book, Whaley does a remarkable job of creating realistic, multidimensional characters and weaving together different story lines to create a unique story about religion, family and friendship.
Cullen is a 17-year-old boy growing up in a small Arkansas town where somehow, despite best intentions, everyone seems to end up coming back, stuck in this small town. Now even the supposed extinct Lazarus woodpecker has come back, but amidst the woodpecker frenzy Cullen’s 15-year-old brother goes missing and everyone is left wondering if he will ever be found and make his way back.
There was a sense of foreboding and suspense that propelled me through this book. I enjoyed the sprinkling of book titles that Cullen dreams up and records throughout such as, “#78: It Is Not a Sin to Kill a Woodpecker” and “#82: Five A.M. Is for Lovers and Lawn Ornaments”. I think young adults will identify with Cullen as he struggles with how to relate to others while wading through a family tragedy and growing up in a small town. Like many others, I look forward to reading more by this new author.
Title: Where things come back
Author: John Corey Whaley
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers