Where Things Come Back - John Corey Whaley

The only more disappointing than reading a bad book is reading a book that you thought was going to be amazing, only to find that it wasn't as good as you hoped it would be.  Where Things Come Back isn't a bad book by any means, it just didn't wow and amaze me as much as I was expecting it to.

My friend Cuppalit raved about this book and, based on her other recommendations, I was eager to try it.  Then, it won the Michael L. Printz award, which almost guaranteed that it would be a good book, since I've loved every other Printz winner that I've read.

Whaley is a good writer, I won't deny that.  He's created some likeable characters in this book, which started off with a bang, flipping between the story of Cullen in Arkansas and Benton in Ethiopia.  I love stories that tell two parallel stories because I'm always just waiting to find out how they'll end up intertwined.  The intertwining of the story was perhaps the best part of this book, and it didn't happen until close to the end.  Between the interesting opening and the story coming to an end, I felt like the story flat lined.  The story was progressing, delving deeper into the characters' lives, but I found that I just wasn't caring as much.  Maybe it was the pacing of the story, or maybe I just can't identify as well with boys in small American towns, but I found my attention wavering.  I persevered and I'm glad that I finished this book; however, I'm surprised that it took me so long to finish, considering the fact that it's just barely over 200 pages long.

This book is Whaley's first novel so I do hope that his next book will be more enjoyable for me.  I won't give up on him just yet!


  1. Great review! Love your honesty, and I suspect many readers will share your sentiments. I totally agree with you that the plot isn't exactly exciting in the middle chunk of the novel.  And, like you, I read the book at a bit of a slower pace than I usually read. But frankly, I enjoyed it. In Whaley's capable hands, I was contentedly carried along the gently flowing current of the narrative from the first page all the way to the stunning climax. His poetic prose often left me in awe; I found myself repeatedly pausing to admire his craft and delight in its brilliance. His style is deceptively simple, packing strikingly vivid images into concise phrases. (As I read, I found myself making Hemingway comparisons.) Considering the subject matter, Whaley could easily have taken a page-blazing, high-adventure approach, but instead his treatment of it is almost (dare I say?) matter-of-fact, nonchalant, and yes. . .slow.  But, this leisurely pace in the face of adversity is The Southern Way, after all, and in employing it, Whaley remains true to his small town, Southern roots.

  2. Phew! I always feel just a little bad when I don't like a book as much as I hoped I would, especially when it's been recommended to me. Yet reading is such a personal thing that it would be a little odd if we always liked the same book. The two words in your comment "deceptively simple" just perfectly summed up my thoughts on this book. I think that I went into the story expecting something amazing and I've read several fast-paced book lately. Reading something that is such a simple story can sometimes be a little jarring, especially in our society where everything is now, now, now. Upon further reflection (I found that I was still thinking about this book a couple of days afterwords), there is a little more to this story than originally meets the eye. I may actually suggest this one for my bookclub, since I think it's a good book for discussion. Some will probably love it, and some will probably hate it, which always makes for the most spirited of discussions. I'll wait a little while, so that I can reread it before we discuss it, and possibly have a completely different experience the second time through. We're reading a southern book (takes place in Mississippi) next month and I think that there is definitely something to be said for "The Southern Way" -- and something completely foreign from "The Canadian Way" - ha! Thank you so much for your thoughts!!!!


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