Sunday, March 11, 2012

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley

Cullen lives in a tiny southern town, where the most exciting thing to happen is the possible reemergence of the believed-to-be-extinct Lazarus woodpecker.  That's the same summer and Cullen's younger brother, Gabriel, disappears without a trace and Cullen and his family have figure out how to carry on with their lives.

There are two seemingly unrelated stories being told.  The first is Cullen's story, which is told in first person.  I like Cullen's voice as a narrator very much, and the matter-of-fact way he spoke about things.  The other story is first that of a boy named Brenton Sage and then switches to his roommate, Cabot Searcy.  It is not clear for much of the book how these two stories are related or will come together.

As I'm sure you know, Where Things Come Back won the Printz award.  So I was waiting for everything to come together in an awesome and mind blowing way.  Something that was going to take this from being an enjoyable and thoughtful read to something amazing that would justify it winning the Printz.  It didn't happen.  Things came together, but there was nothing amazing or mind blowing about it.  Things were explained, wrapped up and then it ended and I was left staring at the covering and thinking, "what was so special about that?"  Thanks a lot, Printz committee.  You've ruined what would have been a perfectly good reading experience.  Because Where Things Come Back was a good book, and I'm glad I read it, but I didn't think there was anything especially amazing about it.

I still think Chime was the best thing I read all year and I'm cranky it didn't even get honored.

What's interesting is that Where Things Come Back isn't exactly about anything in particular, and I usually don't really like those books.  It's kind of about how people cope with the terrible things that happen in life.  I did want to know what happened to Gabriel, I think that helped keep me involved, but most of the story is just what happens over the summer as the town goes crazy over the thought that a bird may have come back to life and Cullen's family and friends try to deal with Gabriel being gone.  Each character deals with grief and stress in a completely different way, from disengaging from life to pretending everything's fine, to keeping busy, to taking care of other people and so on.  Everyone keeps themselves together in different ways, and so work better than others.

So I quite enjoyed Where Things Come Back and totally recommended it, it's just that I was expecting something completely amazing and didn't get it.  I should have known.  The Printz committee and I have been in a fight for several years now.

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