Tuesday, July 24, 2012

When Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley

Pat tells us about her first encounter with Where Things Come Back:
Warning: Do not make the same mistake I did.

I'd heard a little something about Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley a while back, picked it up from the new book shelf at least three or four times, looked at the cover, read the blurbs, and then put it back on the shelf. Every. Single. Time.

The cover didn't do it for me (I know, I know--don't judge and all that). A possible sighting of a woodpecker thought to be long extinct? Set in a small town in Arkansas?  A brother gone missing? It left me feeling like, meh, not my kind of book. 

And then it won the Morris Award for a debut book by a first-time author writing for teens.  And then a few minutes after that it won the freaking Printz Award for the book that best exemplifies excellence in young adult literature!  So this 28-year-old guy publishes his first book and just blows everyone away.  Clearly I needed to get past my superficial judgements and read the darn book.

Oh. My. God. Yeah, it's a little bit about what I said earlier.  But it's also a brilliant coming-of-age novel.  It's  a poignant, intriguing, memorable story about what it's like to grow up in a place that everyone wants to leave but no one seems able to stay away from.  It's about 17-year-old Cullen Witter and his brother Gabriel, who goes missing, and his best friend Lucas, and yeah, the woodpecker, and all the things these funny, confused, smart, wounded, endearing boys face in one life-altering summer in Lily, Arkansas.  It's about how hard it is to make sense of life when you're on the cusp of growing up and becoming an adult. It's about brothers, and family, and love, and loss, and faith, and hope and how much things change and how much they stay the same. 

John Green fans, this is a book for you.  And for anyone else who wants to be transformed by the power of story because this one will stay with you, will make you think about things in a different way.  And what more can we ask of a book or an author?

Here's the book trailer, though  much like everything else I mentioned at the beginning, it doesn't come close to conveying the heart and soul of this astounding book. So read it in spite of everything you think it might be about.  Don't make the same mistake I made.

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