Seventeen-year-old Cullen thinks he knows everything about his small, boring Arkansas town until one day, it all disappears. His cousin overdoses, his town becomes ridiculously obsessed with the rumored reappearance of the once extinct Lazarus woodpecker, and his fifteen-year old brother Gabriel mysteriously vanishes without a trace. While Cullen is spending his summer holding his distraught family together, finding and losing love, and stumbling into adulthood, a lost young missionary desperately searches for his purpose in the world. These two stories, seemingly unconnected, are masterfully woven together in a surprising climax.
Where Things Come Back—Book Review
Where Things Come Back is the winner of the American Library Association's 2012 Michael L. Printz award for excellence in young adult literature. It is a funny, well-crafted story that is beautifully written. At turns heart-warming and heart-wrenching, it is reminiscent of both The Catcher in the Rye and To Kill A Mockingbird. Cullen is a charming and honest narrator. In fact, one of the special qualities of Where Things Come Back is its characters, which are written so descriptively, you feel as though you know them. The dull, small Arkansas town of Lily is also well-described and is practically a character in the story itself. Cullen has a loving and supportive family with an especially close relationship to his brother Gabriel. The strong male friendship in this book between Cullen and Lucas is refreshing and endearing. The side story seems unrelated at first, but have no fear, the stories converge masterfully and all questions are answered by the final page. This guessing, though, makes it hard to put the book down. For a teen book, it is pretty tame, but there is some mild language (a-shat, sh-t). Gabriel is called a "fag" because, according to Cullen, that is what boys call other boys who don't participate in sports and are smart. The story opens with Cullen having to identitfy his junkie cousin in the morgue, but it is not gruesome and he has no emotion about doing so. Cullen has sex twice, but it is more understood and not described, mostly from the "after"--while he and his partner are lying in bed. Themes in this book include resurrection, second chances, faith, hope, false hope, and family. It is mentioned that a character (though not a main one) commits suicide and his death marks a pivotal turning point. Where Things Come Back is a timeless book that will be enjoyed by even reluctant readers, both male and female, teens and adults. >Book review trailer from YouTube: