by Judith Hayn
Whaley, John Corey. Where Things Come Back. New York, NY: Putnam, 2011.
Cullen Witter’s summer before his senior year in high school in small town Lily, Arkansas, opens with his identification of his cousin’s body, lying dead from an overdose in a morgue. From then on, the plot takes a fantastic ride into Cullen’s world, including his vivid imagination. An obsessed outsider shows up seeking the extinct Lazarus woodpecker, and then Cullen’s sensitive younger brother disappears. Woven into this is the story of a disenchanted teen missionary in Africa. How does this relate to Cullen and his fixation with a local town beauty and the temptation of a newly separated young woman, both exiles returning home? His best friend Lucas stands by Cullen throughout, but will this be enough to convince him that perhaps he can leave Lily, or will he, too, come back? Whaley won the Morris Debut Award and the Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature; this book offers a challenging, emotional ride for the reader.
Dr. Judith A. Hayn is an Associate Professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
This article is part of a series from the Special Interest Group Network on Adolescent Literature (SIGNAL).