A Book Review: Where Things Come Back

The following is a book review by The Ameri Brit Mom. This post expresses the genuine opinion and experiences of The Ameri Brit Mom and is in no way endorsed by authors, publishers, and outside influences. 


Title: Where Things Come Back

Author: John Corey Whaley

Publisher: Atheneum

Copyright Date: 2011

I recently found myself as an audience to over one hundred student reading presentations. The days in which the students take charge of the classroom and critique and explain the young adult literature they have chosen to read are some of my favorite days as a teacher. Sitting in the corner of the room you could find me with a rubric scoring each presentation, but also with a paper and pen with which I recorded the titles of books that sparked my interest. One such book that caught my attention was Where Things Come Back. My interest was piqued partially due to the plot of the story, but also due to the flawless demonstration from a student who so clearly enjoyed this reading experience.

Cullen Witter is about to begin his senior year and his life is falling apart. The story begins shortly after the death of his young cousin, Oslo, and while his family is still trying to deal with the grief involved with losing someone so quickly and unexpectedly. Cullen leans on his popular friend, Lucas Cader, for support and distraction during this rough period. Not long after the sudden death of Olso, Cullen’s loving and intelligent brother, Gabriel, goes missing. The rest of the book is Cullen’s struggle to stay positive and remain hopeful despite the time that passes after the day Gabriel goes missing.

While the Witter family is dealing with their own catastrophes the small town where they reside is overtaken by a woodpecker phenomenon. A Lazarus woodpecker which has been extinct for decades has apparently been sighted in the town and this claim brings many conservationists and wildlife preservers into the town. Cullen is tormented by the fact that it seems his town cares more about the “resurrection” of this strange bird than they do about his missing brother.

Meanwhile in a subplot the author reveals a seemingly unrelated story about an African missionary and his quest to fulfill his destiny which takes him to an Ethiopian scripture. This missionary is disillusioned and struggling to find his purpose in ministry and helping others.

As always, the two paths of these characters intertwine and what seemed to be two isolated stories being told in tandem ends up being extensions of the same story. The climax is surprising and clearly portrays one of the main themes of this novel: hope.

It’s really difficult to say much else about this story without giving away some of the unpredictable plot lines.

Overall I thought this book did a great job of promoting hope and the resilience of humanity. Grief also makes us do some wild things and the author was very genuine and authentic when describing how grief can affect those left behind and the families of those who are gone.

I would recommend this quick read to anyone who enjoys contemporary young adult fiction. It definitely is true to the coming-of-age genre as well because it includes elements of romance, friendship, growing up, and self discovery. In the end, Cullen understands the importance of family and friends as he deals with some of the hardest lesson life could send his way.

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