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Where Things Come Back
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Where Things Come Back

3.81 of 5 stars 3.81  ·  rating details  ·  10,891 ratings  ·  1,908 reviews
Just when seventeen-year-old Cullen Witter thinks he understands everything about his small and painfully dull Arkansas town, it all disappears. . . .

In the summer before Cullen's senior year, a nominally-depressed birdwatcher named John Barling thinks he spots a species of woodpecker thought to be extinct since the 1940s in Lily, Arkansas. His rediscovery of the so-calle...more
Hardcover, 228 pages
Published May 3rd 2011 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
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Printz Award Winners and Honor Books
23rd out of 72 books — 838 voters
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Mock Printz 2012
18th out of 51 books — 269 voters

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Community Reviews

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Maggie Stiefvater

1. So. This book takes place in Lily, Arkansas, but it could take place in Nowhere, Virginia, as well, a place I am well acquainted with. It takes place in a small town the same way that my life took place in a small town —not in a surface way, not in a Hollywood way, but in a way that touches every bit of your life. Not good or bad, really, just . . . grit and dust and gross gas stations and lots of church. I appreciate that it feels effortlessly real, no...more

what an unexpectedly delightful book.

i was given an ARC of this and i looked at it and said "gak - biiirrrddss!" and figured i would read it when i got around to it. after some awfully gentle prodding, i got around to it and i read the damn thing in one day, tearassing through it with great glee and awe.

this book is a sad and unpredictable gem.
but with plenty of moments of humor.

it opens with a death-by-overdose and a million instances of the word "ass-hat" - a word i had never heard before bein...more
Maja (The Nocturnal Library)
If there's one thing I've learned in the two and a half years since I joined GoodReads, it’s this: when Maggie Stiefvater recommends a book, I read it. Period. She had nothing but praise for John Corey Whaley’s award-winning debut so I ordered it with no questions asked. I just did it because Maggie said so.

Where Things Come Back is such an unassuming little book. It’s like that small, quiet kid in class other kids never even notice, but if they did, they’d see that he is well-read and fiercely...more
Oh, Cullen Witter, would one please stop talking about oneself in third person?

Where Things Come Back is told mostly from the first person perspective of the young man, Cullen Witter (well, except for when he often talks about himself in the third person) whose fifteen year old brother disappears. Cullen lives in a small town town that just happens to be obsessed with woodpeckers, specifically the long-presumed extinct Lazarus Woodpecker. Both the town and Cullen Witter develop a strong obsessio...more
3.5 stars.

Where Things Come Back is a pretty good debut effort (and not so good choice of cover). A little hard to describe though.

17-year old Cullen Witter is passing his time in a tiny Arkansas town. There is nothing interesting or exciting going on. Cullen is simply waiting for his final high school year to be over and to move on to a life less dull. Everything changes when Cullen's younger brother Gabriel suddenly disappears. If Cullen thought his life was bad before, it becomes unbearable n...more
I won a book! I won a book on First Reads!

Where Things Come Back is a YA debut novel about a disgruntled teen in small town Arkansas (is there any other kind?). 17-year-old Cullen Witter would be an emo teen if Lily was big enough to support fringe subcultures. But he's got all the attributes: over-sensitive, journal-writing, picked on by jocks (every town has those), unlucky in love (until, of course, he becomes extremely lucky in love, a twist integral to the plot, but whatever).

The book take...more
Jesse (JesseTheReader)
I CAN'T EVEN. This book was too good.
I'll keep this short: I needed this. After a series of really shitty not so good reads over the past couple of days, Where Things Come Back reassures me that there are stories worth the effort of not sleeping.

My one complaint though is that it’s cover does not give what’s inside justice. That aside, I really enjoyed this book, the characters and how things came together.

On one hand there’s Cullen, and on the other there’s Benton: two people not connected at all, but through a series of events,...more
Apr 25, 2012 Martha rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: ya
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Two or three weeks ago I went on a brief vacation with Husband, which involved lots of scenic driving and also lots of me ignoring the scenic driving in favor of reading. Husband is always a fan of me reading on trips, since when I’m stuck in the car without a book I tend to stare creepily at him and/or loudly sing show tunes. As one does.

Anyway, I read Where Things Come Back during this period, and when I got the book out today to write my review, I remembered basically nothing about it.

“Oh yee...more
This book started out so great. I was seventeen when I saw my first dead body. For me, it just didn't sustain that initial pull. The format flipflops between two stories, culminating in their inevitable collision. I loved the chapters which focussed on Cullen Witter. He's a seventeen year old boy, dealing with more than his share of problems. (see above). His younger brother Gabriel disappears one day, leaving no clue behind. I was riveted by his story. We watch as his world slowly crumbles. He...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
"It was one of those moments when you're waiting on someone to say something important or funny or just do anything to break you away from the sad thoughts that overwhelm your mind. Thoughts like never having enough money to move away or not getting into college. Thoughts like having to come back to take care of a sick parent and getting stuck here all over again. That's what happened in Lily. People dreamed. People left. And they all came back."

Winner of the Printz Award for excellence in young...more
Thanjinia Haque
If you're looking for a mysterious book, this is the one.
There are two stories in this book and every other chapter hypes up one story. As you read, you realize there is no connection between the two stories, but when each chapter ends, it ends with a shocking ending that makes you indulged in the book, and you want to keep reading. The author uses a large conflict to tie the two stories together in the end. This book is mysterious cause you always ask why or how and none of your questions are...more
Jul 05, 2011 Kate rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Kate by: karen
A pretty good YA debut novel. Going into it, I didn't realize it was going to be a book about faith. I thought it was going to be a book about birds and loss, since the two factors that drive the story are Garbriel's (Cullen brother's) disappearance and a sighting of a woodpecker everyone thought was extinct.

However, there are missionary trips, loss of faith, and Cabot's faith crazed ideas that seem to doom him all the more, added into the mix. These are the factors that tie seemingly unrelated...more
Ellen Hopkins
Great mystery element and unusual setting. Deserving of its honors.
May 14, 2011 tim rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommended to tim by: karen
Not bad for my first first-reads win. Somehow I overlooked the YA designation when entering the contest. Regardless, I was mostly able to get over myself regarding the intended readership and enjoy this anyway. I do have some minor qualms with the book, but I don't feel like focusing on them because overall this is a fine story. I haven't read any other YA books to compare this with, but it stands up pretty well to, and reminded me at times of some very good adult fiction I've recently read and...more
Interesting to read at the same time as Okay for Now - boys and birds, who knew they went so well together?

Every part of this book rings true; adolescent diaglouge, variety of believable family relationships; the struggle of a teen boy to deal with vitally emotional issues instead of turning typical teen drama into high drama. The point at which the readers realizes ,i events and characters collided only intensifies the desire to know the outcome. The author's use of language, however, keeps it...more
I appreciate some books, but I don't necessarily enjoy them. This is one of those times. Weaving together 2 seemingly disparate stories, Whaley explores small town life, family, hope, and second chances. More of a character study than a plot-driven novel. The constant switching between first person and third person kept me from falling into a reading flow and makes me question what really happened at the end. I look forward to reading more books from Whaley in the future; this is an excellent de...more
Roo James
Well I will say that I liked this one.... that being said, I was kinda expecting to love this book. I recently read and loved the author's sophomore effort, Noggin, and loved that one. So after hearing so much hype about Where Things Come Back, naturally I expected to feel the same way.
The characters were endearing, and the story(ies) well rounded, but I wanted something more. There was a solid 50 pages that were definitely 4 star material and more along the lines of what I was expecting, and w...more
LE SIGH – You guys! YOU GUYS!! Cullen Witter. CULLEN WITTER OMG. (book title 1 – the boy who snuck into my heart)
When one finishes a rather fucking incredible book, one can only feel a particular sense of awe that comes when one realise's just how amazing words can be. One can only let the magic of a book spew out onto their hands and stain their hearts with hope.
I know. Wax poetic much. DON’T MIND IF I DO KIND SIR.
It all starts with a Lazarus Woodpecker. The pesky bird that’s supposed to e...more
"If you've never been to Lily, and I bet you haven't, then you need to know that it is located almost exactly halfway between Little Rock and Memphis. There are 3,947 people, according to the faded green sign on the side of the road as you drive into town, and most of those people are complete ass-hats who tried and subsequently failed to leave this place behind. One unique thing about Lily is that, for a small town in the middle of nowhere, it seems to be a very clean, well-kept sort of place....more
For a first young adult novel, John Corey Whaley’s debut book is surprisingly complex. Besides the arrangement of the plot, in terms of subject matter and theme, the novel is heavily layered and even plays with a reader’s perceptions of reality and fantasy. And if you look closely enough, you will probably notice a faint essence of The Catcher in the Rye, i.e. consider the presence of the mysterious Dr. Webb and how he really might figure into Cullen’s story….

Of the three tales that are interlac...more
Worst summer ever.. Cullen's pre- Sr. year summer starts out with identifying his drug addicted cousin's body, and, weeks later, his younger brother Gabe goes missing. And stays missing.. all summer. His entire small town is freaking out, he tries to keep it together for his parents and his aunt, but he is 17 and does not know what to do. Girls who never gave him the time of day before are now throwing themselves at him, his friend Lucas spends every possible minute helping in any way Cullen wil...more
Alethea A
OH MY GOSH. I want to interview this man. Fantastic book.

I disagree about the cover. I just love Grady McFerrin's artwork. It's definitely not a mainstream choice for YA. More like R.A. Nelson, Natalie Standiford, or Beth Ann Bauman. His other YA book cover is the little-known The Book of the Maidservant. The cover also reminds me of Still Life with Woodpecker by Tom Robbins

Full review forthcoming.
Wow! This book was beautiful; mainly because the story was so simple yet I found so much wonder in the ordinary.

I love books set in small towns and the characters that emerge from the pages. In Lilly, Arkansas the cast of characters are very human. Each has a sense of loss and the hope for second chances. It's a story about adolescent love, family, best friends, childhood, tragedy, and the return of an extinct woodpecker.

The metaphor behind this unusual bird was genius and truly touching. For a...more
I loved this book! (not sure the cover will be appealing to teens)
Things have begun to disappear in Cullen's life: his brother, his family, his sanity, and his sense of direction. And amongst all of these things disappearing, the once-thought extinct Lazarus Woodpecker bird reappears in his small town, giving everyone hope at a second chance.
I immediately fell in love with the characters: Cullen, Gabriel, Lucas, Meena, etc. Cullen reminds me of a more lovable and hopeful Holden Caulfield.
Dec 27, 2011 Kate added it
Shelves: young-adult
So many of the characters are named for Arkansas towns that I'm tempted to map them and see if connecting the dots makes the shape of a woodpecker.
Apr 26, 2011 Eh?Eh! is currently reading it
Holy crap! I WIN!!!! May this streak never end.
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JOHN ‘COREY’ WHALEY grew up in the small town of Springhill, Louisiana, where he learned to be sarcastic and to tell stories. He has a B.A. in English from Louisiana Tech University, as well as an M.A in Secondary English Education. He started writing stories about aliens and underwater civilizations when he was around ten or eleven, but now writes realistic YA fiction (which sometimes includes zo...more
More about John Corey Whaley...

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“Life, he says, doesn’t have to be so bad all the time. We don’t have to be anxious about everything. We can just be. We can get up, anticipate that the day will probably have a few good moments and a few bad ones, and then just deal with it. Take it all in and deal as best we can.” 139 likes
“Your mind has a way of not letting you forget things you wish you could. Especially with people. Like, you'll always try your best to forget things that people say to you or about you, but you always remember. And you'll try to forget things you've seen that no one should see, but you just can't do it. And when you try to forget someone's face, you can't get it out of your head.” 99 likes
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