Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley

Where Things Come Back
Written by John Corey Whaley
Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Expected Publication March 2015
272 Pages
Thanks to Simon & Schuster Australia
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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.
Cullen is a high school senior and lives in the small town of Lily, where everyone knows who are you are and nothing ever happens... Until his cousin Oslo overdoses. With his family in mourning, Cullen and his fifteen year old brother seek solace in one another and the first big event to hit the town in over sixty years. A once thought extinct Woodpecker has been spotted and threatens to put the lazy town back on the Arkansas map. It's the talk of the town, until Cullen's brother Gabriel disappears.

Benton Sage is in Ethiopia, the young Missionary following the word of God. He lives for his strict father's approval, but finding himself feeding the malnourished isn't what he'd expected from his work, unrewarding and needing more. So when he asks the church to send him home, not only do the church believe the work of God isn't his calling, but his family now want little to do with him. He seeks refuge at university, choosing to return to studying while still practicing his scriptures.

Cullen continues to hunt for his brother, navigate a romance with the girl of his dreams and try to find a reason to wake up each day. With his brother still missing as the weeks tick by, surely someone must know what happened to Gabriel. Answers may come as world's collide in six degrees of separation.


Where Things Come Back was incredibly complex, poignant and an engaging story that I simply couldn't put down. It follows two separate storylines, Benton who is a young Missionary in a foreign country, always striving for his father's acceptance and Cullen, who lives in a sleepy country town, where his brother has disappeared. They're worlds apart, but through fate, both Cullen and Benton's stories combine to one bittersweet and climatic ending.

Although I couldn't relate to Benton, as his life was dictated to by the word of God, Cullen's character was realistic, raw and I couldn't help but be drawn into his storyline. His pain and anguish as the weeks fly by with no sign of his brother was painful. Cullen's emotions flew off the page and I felt every high, every low and held out hope for Gabriel to return.

This isn't your average contemporary, it's intricate and as the puzzle pieces fall into place, the reader will discover the connection and events that will ultimately change lives and leave destruction in their wake.

I loved it. An intelligent read that will appeal more so to the mature young adult reader. Deep, philosophical and a raw.

42 comments

  1. This sounds really interesting! I like the sound of a deep philosophical read to make me feel more intelligent haha. Interested to see how the two storylines connect. Great Review!

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    1. Thanks Sunny. I was unsure of how a teen boy's story would impact on the storyline of a missionary, and it was so surprising. I'm still thinking about it even days after finishing this one.

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  2. Oooh, this one sounds GOOD. I'm going to keep my eye out for it, that's for sure. I love the sound of its complexity. I might not be the biggest contemporary fan, but this looks very promising.

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    1. It's certainly not your average young adult contemporary Kara, thought provoking and will appeal to mature readers, rather than those looking for a sappy romance or the general young adult tropes.

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  3. This book sounds amazing! I love how realistic it sounds and how everything isn't picture perfect. Brilliant Review!!
    Naomi @The Perks Of Being A Bookworm

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    1. It truly is Naomi! The characters are completely flawed, but so incredibly raw and realistic. When it seems all overused and done in young adult, this one comes along. It's one out of the box.

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  4. This does sound quite intricate and complex, but I'm glad you liked it so much. I'd be curious to see how the two story lines connect.

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    1. I wondered the same Lauren, and was amazed at how involved it was. Definitely a case of six degrees of separation. I think you'll really enjoy this one.

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  5. Not only does the cover look promising, but so does the premise. I mean, everything is so basic at the moment, like everything is just about to happen once you open the pages.

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    1. Beautiful analogy Mawa, this book is simply that. Not just another read, but more so an experience.

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  6. Wow this sounds like a really poignant read - I'm definitely intrigued now since I hadn't heard of it before. Thanks for the fantastic review Kelly :)

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    1. It certainly was Eugenia, I really enjoyed it.

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  7. This sound good! Wait so the two characters are linked somehow? DO THEY EVER MEET?? You don't have to answer that, I would like to see for myself if I pick it up one day :) Awesome review Kelly!

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    1. You'll have to read it and find out poppet. The way their worlds collided was so bizarre, but I was so engaged with the storyline, it was incredible!

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  8. I'm a huge fan of this kind of story, Kelly. I like making each piece fit into a puzzle that the author has laid out for their readers. I also like the seemingly unrelated stories that only makes sense once you get to the end.

    Fantastic review!

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    1. Thanks Joy.

      I think you'd really enjoy this one. It doesn't read like your usual young adult novel, but more so for the mature reader. It's complex and seems like both lives crossing would be nearly impossible, I was shocked how they came together but the author really did a wonderful job.

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  9. Where Things Come Back sounds like such a wonderful book. I love books where separate story lines collide because they have this certain complexity about them that keep me thinking and make my brain happy. :)

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    1. Mine too Ana! So few young adult authors really challenge readers, but this was such an incredible change from the regular tropes. Grab a copy, I can't wait to see what you think of it.

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  10. I'm liking the sound of the depth in this one, it's not something that you would get in every contemporary. I'm also curious about how the two story lines are related!

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    1. You rarely see that kind of complexity in young adult do you, which really is a shame. So when a book like this one comes along, grab it in both hands and savior it. I really enjoyed it.

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  11. Wow, this sounds both painful and wonderful. Although this kind of book is not always on my alley, this though, sounds that it'll produce the *feels* off of me :D

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    1. It's emotional, but won't destroy you Abby, thank goodness. Just a superbly intelligent read. Looking forward to seeing what you think of it.

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  12. I love when two characters' story arcs intersect, and it sounds like the author did a really good job in tying Benton and Cullen's stories together. I like the sound of a raw and intelligent read - too often these themes are overlooked when there's too much focus on romance and such. Lovely review Kels, I'm gonna keep an eye out for this book! xx

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    1. Me too Joy. It was amazing really, those two storylines, so far removed from one another and how they connect is incredibly intense and shocked me actually. There's a little bit of romance, but not nearly enough to rate a mention. I loved it Joy, I can't wait to see what you think of it.

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  13. This sounds so deep and like I will probably cry... I love the sound of it! I need that depth and complex exploration of deep themes, it makes it more real and emotional and able to connect with more. :) Lovely review!

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    1. Thanks Renee. It won't break you, but it's emotional and incredibly thought provoking. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

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  14. Wow, Cullen sounds incredibly emotional and it sounds like a great thought provoking read. I like how you described the pieces falling into place as well. Lovely review Kelly!

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    1. Thanks Jeann.

      It's one of those books that stays with you long after the final page as well, incredibly poignant and one of the more complex young adult I've read.

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  15. When you wrote this review, Kelly, were you secretly aiming to capture my heart? Because believe me, you just convinced me to try this out! I love philosophical books! I love stories that make you think and make you wonder about life and everything in between. I need this like I need air omggg

    Faye at The Social Potato

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    1. I totally was. Did it work?

      Me too Faye, something out of the ordinary that stays with you months down the track. The ending was really subjective, I can't wait to see what you think of it!

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  16. This is one of my all time favorite books! Really happy to see someone else who loves it too!
    Lovely review!

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    1. YAY! So glad you loved it too Sophie, it was incredible wasn't it.

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  17. I love the sound of a poignant and thought-provoking read. I honestly wouldn't have oven this book much thought if it hadn't been for your review. Thanks for putting it on my radar :) awesome review.

    Marianne @ Boricuan Bookworms

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    1. You're welcome Marianne.

      It's realistic and utterly beautiful. So many different angles to the storyline as well, it's certainly thought provoking.

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  18. I like how realistic this novel sounds, I haven't heard of it before but you have me intrigued now. Lovely review <3

    Benish | Feminist Reflections

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    1. Thanks Benish. It's flawed, raw and realistic, making for an incredible read. Hopefully you can pick up a copy soon, would love to see what you think of it.

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  19. That cover really reminds me of Bird. Hmmmm. Very similar! This sounds really moving and eerie and JUST INTRIGUING AND I WANT IT, OKAY?

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    1. It does, doesn't it. It actually does have significance to the storyline though, as in the small town, they discover a Woodpecker the world assumed was extinct. It's reappeared after 60 years lost. It ties in with the overall storyline too. I loved it. It's not my typical read, but that synopsis just called to me, and I wasn't disappointed whatsoever.

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  20. This is such a lovely review Kelly, I got feels just from reading about Cullen's emotions. I'm definitely going to check this out because it seems so intriguing and I definitely don't read enough YA books with male leads.

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    1. Me either actually Jaz. They mostly seem to be fantasy or dystopian with the multiple points of view. I love reading the male perspective, especially in contemporaries. We don't often see the softer side of their points of view and it makes such a refreshing change.

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  21. YAY, I love realistic fiction! - I'm glad you enjoyed this one. I haven't read a male POV in a while now, seeing your lovely review, I think I'll check this one out now. Thank you for putting it under my radar - I love finding new books from your blog :)

    Benish | Feminist Reflections

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    1. Thanks Benish. This one is one of those intelligent young adult reads that'll appeal to the wider audience too. Can't wait to see what you think of it!

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