Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley

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Winner of the 2012 Michael L. Printz and William C. Morris Awards, this poignant and hilarious story of loss and redemption “explores the process of grief, second chances, and even the meaning of life” (Kirkus Reviews).

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.
     This extraordinary tale from a rare literary voice finds wonder in the ordinary and illuminates the hope of second chances.

About John Corey Whaley

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John Corey Whaley grew up in a small southern town. He has a BA from Louisiana Tech University and an MA in secondary English education. Where Things Come Back is his first novel.
Published May 3, 2011 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers. 242 pages
Genres: Romance, Young Adult, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Where Things Come Back

Kirkus Reviews

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He discovers the Book of Enoch, an ancient text not included in the traditional Bible, which describes Archangel Gabriel’s role of ridding Earth of fallen angels.

Apr 05 2011 | Read Full Review of Where Things Come Back

Publishers Weekly

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The portentous tone and flat affect of Whaley's writing is well-suited to the story's religious themes and symbolism (Gabriel, the Lazarus woodpecker, the apocryphal Book of Enoch), as Whaley gradually brings the story's many threads together in a disturbing, heartbreaking finale that retains a t...

Apr 11 2011 | Read Full Review of Where Things Come Back


Graduated high school bullies, the imagined zombie of Cullen's dead-by-overdose cousin, the pretty girl who got out and went to Savannah: All come back to Lily eventually.

May 31 2011 | Read Full Review of Where Things Come Back

Red Room

At the same time, a supposedly extinct woodpecker is sighted near the small Arkansas town of Lily where the story takes place, which essentially overshadows the disappearance of Cullen's brother, Gabriel.

May 02 2012 | Read Full Review of Where Things Come Back

WAPL Teens

Alma Ember, 19-year-old divorcee and recently returned to Lily after a brief experiment with college (and marriage) in Atlanta, who Cullen is sort of dating after Lucas sets him up on a date with her.

Jan 13 2012 | Read Full Review of Where Things Come Back

Reading Today Online

Cullen Witter’s summer before his senior year in high school in small town Lily, Arkansas, opens with his identification of his cousin’s body, lying dead from an overdose in a morgue.

Apr 10 2012 | Read Full Review of Where Things Come Back

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