Where Things Come Back

By John Corey Whaley. Published by Atheneum Books, 2011

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A boy named Cullen lives in a town named Lily. He has a brother named Gabriel and he is challened. Cullens cousin Oslo has recently died so it has been hard on them. A little while later his brother Gabriel goes missing. Him and Lucas are very upset at the fact that Gabriel has gone missing but something catches their attention. A guy named John Barling comes and says he has seen the Lazarus woodpecker and people around town start to talk about it. Later on Gabriel comes back and they are surprised because things in the town of lily do not usually come back.

Characters at Play

  • Cullen- The main character of the book who's point of view we hear from
  • Lucas - Cullen's best friend. Personality is the opposite of Cullen, yet he is a dynamic character.
  • Ada Taylor - the gorgeous girl of Cullen's dreams
  • Gabriel- Cullen's brother who mysteriously dissapears.
  • John Barling- man whos from oregon who claimes he has seen the Lazarus woodpecker

Cullen Whitter, our narrator, our POV

Cullen Whitter is the protagonist in Where Things Come Back. He goes through many obstacles such as, his fifteen year old brother Gabriel's disappearance, him and his town seeing a "extinct" woodpecker and, his cousin Oslo's death. He considered himself a very average teenage boy, he was judgmental but not too judgmental. He was not big like some of the kids in his school he was average. Cullen had no goals for his future he just waits for good things to happen while just stays thee and does nothing "i had no real future to speak of. No goals.No aspirations. No desire to do anything but sit around and wait for something big to happen, something miraculous to occur (pg 170)".

An unexpected Twist, Benton on a Mission

Benton Sage is sent on a mission by his reverend Hughes. He is very thrilled about going on his mission until he actually gets there. When he gets there he feels like what they are doing is not good enough. He says what they are doing there is not doing anything to help people become closer with God. He sends a letter to his reverend and leaves six weeks later. He gets back expecting a different assignment but instead his father is dissapointed with him. Benton then goes back to college and meets a woman named Alma Ender and marries her.

Plotting a Winner: The Elements that Make Up a Memorable Book

  • Theme- Some things do come back in life
  • Setting- Lily Arkansas
  • Conflict- Cullen whitter lives in a town where things are known to just dissapear but that all changes when they see a lazarus woodpecker.
  • Symbolism- The lazarus woodpecker. It shows that things do come back.

My Take on the Book

I would recommend this book for many reasons. As a young person, this book is very relatable to my explorations and questions about life. The book talks about scenarios that can happen to anybody in a broader context, and often affects peoples' everyday lives, as is the case with searching for more outside of our lives. "The grass is greener on the other side," being the general sentiment of the protagonist until he reexamines his previously established views on the town he lives in and the people he thought he knew. As is the truth with the character, often such introspection results from stress or a traumatic event.

While it is not a fast-paced read, where the beginning of the book is off to a slow introduction into this fictional world, lacking a true hook to the story from page one, the writing sets the pace for the reader to truly feel what it's like to live in the town of Lily. As a reader, you become an observer, and later almost a participant, being now invested in this setting and in the characters. After the first few chapters, once the reader becomes ingrained within the culture of small-town mentality, the writing picks up speed and the story gets very interesting, making you want to read more and more to find out what happens with Cullen and where the plot leads. The author cleverly gets the reader invested in the story.

I, also, personally enjoyed the vivid imagery. From the smells, tastes, and sounds of small town life to the added anguish of growing up in a society where it become so much harder to hide your personal thoughts and feelings. If in a few years, I will stumble across the book once again on my bookshelf, I look forward to reexamining the symbolism that was vague in the background upon my first reading.

Interactive Peer Participation

What do you think will be the follow up book from John Corey Whaley?

Is it more difficult to write after having a successful book?

Do you think it is easier to write fiction from personal experience or about a subject you don't know much about?

Would you want to be friends with Cullen in real life?