Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley: Book Review

Title: Where Things Come Back
Author: John Corey Whaley
Publication Details: May 2012 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Copy: Paperback bought from Book Sale

In the remarkable, bizarre, and heart-wrenching summer before Cullen Witter's senior year of high school, everything he thinks he understands about his small and painfully dull Arkansas town vanishes. 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.

As Cullen navigates a summer of finding and losing love, holding his fragile family together, and muddling his way into adulthood, a young, disillusioned missionary in Africa searches for meaning wherever he can find it. And when those two stories collide, a surprising and harrowing climax emerges that is tinged with melancholy and regret, comedy and absurdity, and above all, hope.

When I saw this book at Book Sale, I immediately grabbed it, not because it was on my TBR or wish list, but because of its bright blue pretty cover. Haha! Plus, it's an award-winning piece so I was really intrigued by it.

When I started reading, I had no idea what the book is about so I was guessing how Cullen's and Benton's stories are connected. The development of the story can be a bit slow, but Cullen's sense of humor made up for it. His POV is reflective and introspective but it isn't dull and dragging.

There was a lot going on in Cullen's life, not to mention the woodpecker that turned Lily into an instant tourist spot, but the flow of events and how they influenced Cullen is really remarkable. I liked how everything was tied in the end, giving an amazing conclusion.

The story was easy to follow, light but at the same time, moving.

Where Things Come Back did not only focus around Cullen's life and the issues he's facing but also in the secondary characters' lives. I liked how in a 228-page read, I was able to know them.

Every character is likeable despite the poor choices some of them might have made. They are easily relatable and thankfully, none of them is annoying.

I really liked the style of writing. The narration is divided into two: a first person POV, that of Cullen's, and a third person POV for the other characters.

I've never read anything like it before, so it was refreshing for me. I think it also helped in avoiding the monotonous (and dragging) tone that other first-person-POV-books usually have.


Overall, I really, really liked Where Things Come Back. More than a book about a boy making his way into adulthood, Where Things Come Back is a story about relationships, life and hope.

Funny yet poignant. I definitely recommend this book to everyone who wants a light, funny yet heart-rending read. :)

"It never hurts anyone to think life gives you second chances."

"We don't have to be so anxious about everything. We can just be. We can get up, anticipate that the day will probably have a few good moments and a few bad ones, and then just deal with it. Take it all in and deal as best we can."

"We can be comforted in the fact that life will always be a struggle. There will always be false hopes."

John 'Corey’ Whaley grew up in the small town of Springhill, Louisiana, where he learned to be sarcastic and to tell stories. He has a B.A. in English from Louisiana Tech University, as well as an M.A in Secondary English Education. He started writing stories about aliens and underwater civilizations when he was around ten or eleven, but now writes realistic YA fiction (which sometimes includes zombies…). He taught public school for five years and spent much of that time daydreaming about being a full-time writer… and dodging his students’ crafty projectiles. He is terrible at most sports, but is an occasional kayaker and bongo player. He is obsessed with movies, music, and traveling to new places. He is an incredibly picky eater and has never been punched in the face, though he has come quite close. One time, when he was a kid, he had a curse put on him by a strange woman in the arcade section of a Wal-Mart. His favorite word is defenestration. His favorite color is green. His favorite smell is books. He currently splits his time between Louisiana and Los Angeles.

Where Things Come Back is his first novel (Source: Author's blog).


  1. I'm glad to see that you enjoyed this one! It sounds like a very interesting read. I may have to give it a read soon!
    Krystianna @ Downright Dystopian

    1. It is an interesting read! :) Thanks for stopping by. :)


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