Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley (Atheneum)
It’s Cullen Witter’s senior year at high school, and he is slowly finding his way into a reluctant adulthood. But things change when a rare woodpecker is spotted near the small town where he lives, and the local community becomes obsessed with finding it.
Family drama also threatens to derail him when his cousin overdoses and his grieving aunt becomes a disruptive influence in the normality of his family life. The worst is yet to come.
One morning his younger brother simply disappears, and Cullen’s life begins to unravel in earnest. Through it all he manages to forge a tentative romantic connection, as his feelings and desires cut through the strange limbo of not know where his brother is or if he is still alive.
A parallel narrative tells of a young missionary in Africa who suffers a crisis of faith, setting in motion a series of events that will eventually influence whether Cullen is able to find peace.
The secondary story feels disjunctive at times, but is ultimately woven with a dramatic twist into the main plotline of Cullen’s struggle to find normality when the whole world is turned upside down.
Unusual, deeply personal and emotional, Where things come back is written with a unique, memorable narrative voice, at times reminiscent of the sharp observations of Mark Haddon’s bestseller The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.
Older teens will enjoy it, and adults will not be disappointed by its complexity and delicacy.
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