Synopsis: The disappearance of Cullen Witter’s younger brother during the summer before his senior year forces him to re-examine everything he thinks he knows about his life, his town, and the people in it. Meanwhile, a young missionary’s disillusioned writings have far-reaching consequences, and a small town derives new hope from the supposed sighting of a long-thought-extinct woodpecker.
Is this a “must-read”?: Unequivocally yes.
Why?: I know I say this a lot on this blog, but I really think that Where Things Come Back will be a classic someday. It’s exactly the kind of thing a teacher would make you read, but in a good way. It explores themes ranging from loss, to existential angst (which, unlike teen angst, isn’t about whining all day long; existential angst is a feeling of dread resulting from the realization that you actually can do anything), to the meaning of life. Sounds boring as heck right? Well, it’s not. Whaley imbues each of his characters with a unique and believable voice. He also manages to pull off both the inverted timeline thing and the “daydream written as if it’s actually happening” thing without causing confusion or frustration on the part of the reader.
You grow to empathize with each of the characters even though none of them take the time to tell us exactly why we should feel bad for them. Whaley manages to tie some very different storylines together without it feeling forced, and I loved how the entire novel has a kind of atmospheric feel while being grounded firmly in reality. Not to mention that it’s actually readable. In short, Where Things Come Back is an actual literary feat, and I can’t wait to see what Whaley does with whatever else he writes (that’s right folks; this was his first published novel)…Why are y’all still sitting there? Get thee to a library! Why wouldst thou be a reader of teen fluff? I am myself indifferent honest, and shall add this to my personal favorites list!
Next time: The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
Post by dac213! Catch up on the rest of her series here.