Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley

Bibliographic Citation:
Whaley, John Corey. (2011). Where Things Come Back. New York, NY: Atheneum Books For Young Readers. ISBN 9781442413337.

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Image from Amazon.com
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Plot Summary:
Cullen is a seventeen-year-old boy living in the small town of Lily, Arkansas. He fantasizes about leaving one day and never coming back. Shortly after Lily lands in the spotlight due to reports of a missing woodpecker resurfacing, his younger brother, Gabriel, goes missing. Cullen resents the town’s recent fame as he struggles with Gabriel’s disappearance. He is conflicted with the thought of second chances and that Lily just might be the place where things come back.

Critical Analysis:
Where Things Come Back is written from the point of view of several different characters. As you read you’ll hear Cullen’s story, Benton’s and Cabot’s. Each story is so intricately woven together yet you don’t know how they are connected until the end. This novel is also set in different places, Cullen in Arkansas, Cabot in Georgia, and Benton on a foreign mission trip. Whaley’s writing bounces the reader between characters flawlessly. You know they’re connected. You know there’s something more to each of them, but how? Why?

Where Things Come Back has so much going for it that it is hard to come up with any weaknesses in the story. The characters had so many dimensions, so many little details that you didn’t know were going to matter until they did. You know what they’re thinking, you know how they feel, and you can empathize with them even if you haven’t been in a situation even remotely similar. There are few characters that aren’t rich in detail with their own personal struggles. Despite novels for young adults typically having few main characters to stay short, you need those characters and details. This story wouldn’t be the same if you took away some of the layers.

Also, this book isn’t set primarily in a school. The majority of the book is told from Cullen’s perspective, and it seems he spends more time in his brother’s room or at the store where he works than everywhere else. I found this to be refreshing. It isn’t just another teenage book about high school problems. Where Things Come Back is unlike any book I’ve ever read and it was a welcomed change.

My biggest complaint with this book is the pacing. It started off really slow and I would go days without picking it up. The beginning just couldn’t keep my attention. However, the ending of the book was so riveting that I couldn’t put it down. Whaley needed to build the story up, to introduce us to the characters, to give us some back story but I wish he could’ve done it with a little more pizzazz.


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