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Where Things Come Back

by John Corey Whaley

Published by Atheneum, 2011
228 pages
ISBN: 978-1-4424-1333-7

Age 14 and older

Teen Cullen Witter lives in the town of Lily, Arkansas, population 3,947, where, he observes, most “people are complete ass-hats who tried and subsequently failed to leave this place behind.” Cullen’s distinctive voice, pessimistic and often funny, pulls readers into a complex and compelling story full of tension and surprise. When an ornithologist reports sighting a Lazarus bird, long believed to be extinct (think Ivory-Billed Woodpecker), Lily suddenly becomes the focus of national attention. Around the same time, Cullen’s younger brother, brilliant Gabriel, vanishes. Cullen is frustrated with the ongoing attention the elusive bird receives while he and his parents cope with uncertainty and grief. Meanwhile, Benton Sage, a young man filled with missionary zeal and a need to please his rigid father, becomes disenchanted with religion after recognizing his inability to influence the spiritual lives of others during a mission trip to Ethiopia. He returns to the United Sates, starts college, and shares his interest in the Book of Enoch with his charismatic roommate – all of which has dramatic consequence down the line when these two seemingly disparate storylines eventually intersect. John Corey Whaley’s debut novel explores themes of death, resurrection, and redemption; families and friendship; loss and discovery for a start. Whaley’s tightly plotted narrative in which the timeline proves to be critical unfolds through beautifully expressive writing that reveals richly developed characters and thought-provoking insights at every turn. (MS) ©2011 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

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