Monday, September 15, 2014

Book Review: Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley

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BOOK review
Started on: 6.September.2014
Finished on: 8.September.2014

Title : Where Things Come Back
Author : John Corey Whaley
Publisher : Atheneum
Pages : 228 pages
Year of Publication : 2012
Price : $ 10.28 (www.bookdepository.com/)

Rating: 3.5/5
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"That's what happened in Lily. People dreamed. People left. And they all came back. It was like Arkansas's version of a black hole; nothing could escape it.... So, the fact that Gabriel believed our town needed that bird to exist made absolute sense to me, whether I liked it or not. They needed something to be hopeful about."
Cullen Witter lives in Lily, Arkansas, where not a lot of things happened and everything seems to be dull. Until a man named John Barling thinks that he saw a rare woodpecker species in Lily - which was supposed to be extinct in the 1940s. The news definitely shook the whole town, and in a short time everyone was focused on the Lazarus Woodpecker. Even though everyone was excited with the fact that their small town finally had something exciting going on, Cullen doesn't feel the same way. Because at the same time, his younger brother, Gabriel Witter, suddenly went missing.

"We've learned from this that death can hurt us.
Death can surprise us.
It can scare us.
It can keep us at night.
But we've also learned the things that death cannot do.
It cannot crush our hopes.
It cannot take away the love and support of our friends and family.
It cannot make us lose our unending faith in the world and in God."
On the other side of the story, a missionary in Africa named Benton Sage is trying to figure out his life purpose. His whole life, everything he did was to please his father. When he went to college, he shared his religious experience with his roommate, Cabot Searcy - who would continue Benton's curiosity about God's vision and also human potential. In an unexpected way, his fate would soon intertwine with Cullen Witter and the small town of Lily. When Cullen Witter is trying to figure out his way through adulthood with the support of his best friend, Lucas Cader; he was never sure if his brother would ever come back like the Lazarus Woodpecker.
"Cullen, people can't give up on other people yet. We all get a second chance, you know? We get to start over like Noah after the flood. No matter how evil man gets, he always gets a second chance one way or another."
"Everything that had, in some way or another, led him to some nothing town where, as it seemed, things could come back from the dead, mistakes could be rectified, lives could be started over."
image source: here. edited by me.
Before starting the book, I had a really high expectation because a lot of people who've read this book talked about how amazing this book is. I also went into the book not knowing much about the storyline. I have to say I am somewhat disappointed with this book because I was expecting a lot more. Most of the time I was confused (which I'm not really sure if it's because my lack of understanding or something else) and I wasn't sure what the story is trying to say. Even though I quite enjoyed it from beginning to end, unfortunately it doesn't fulfill my expectations.

The plot summary I wrote above was pretty short, but I honestly don't know what else to say without spoiling the story too much. There are two different perspectives in the beginning of this book: one is by Cullen Witter, and the other Benton Sage. Cullen Witter's chapters are written in first-person POV (but sometimes mixed with third-person POV, as well), while Benton Sage's chapters are written in third-person POV. The two stories are told one after another alternately - talking about different conflicts in two different settings. As the story progressed, the two stories started to intertwine with each other and exposed a huge plot twist to the story! Although I won't go into details about it to avoid spoiler, I have to say that it was the best part of the whole book. That shocking revelation was what made me gave this book a 3.5/5 rating (I originally only wanted to give this book 2.5 or 3 stars). When I finally reached that part, my mouth was literally hanging open and I said 'Oh my God' out loud several times - because I didn't expect THAT to happen. But unfortunately, that amazing plot twist and how the two stories beautifully intertwine wasn't enough to make me love this book. Besides that one part, the rest of the book felt flat and I can't seem to fully understand the conflict (which probably means I am the problem in this case). Thankfully, the ending was pretty satisfying and stayed true to the title of the book.
"Why are you my friend?"
"That's a stupid question."
"Why? Because there's no answer?"
"No, because that's like asking why people stretch when they wake up or jump when they're scared," he said sternly.
"Huh?"
"These things just happen, Cullen. You just are my friend. That's that. No explanation needed."
"So, you're my friend just because you're my friend?" I laughed.
"That's right. I just am. It's the simplest thing in the world."
Where Things Come Back also revolves around the characters. There are quite a lot of characters in this book, and I honestly don't know how I feel about them. For starters, I wasn't able to connect with Cullen Witter on an emotional level. He had a lot of weird imagination in his head, and I wasn't sure what was the purpose of that. And it's not that I don't like his character, I just felt nothing about him. My favorite character in the book would probably be Lucas Cader - Cullen's best friend. He's fun, loyal, and always managed to say something right at the perfect time. I also like Gabriel Witter more than Cullen, just because everyone's description about him was so wonderful. Of course he was mentioned occasionally because he went missing. Other than these two, I wasn't able to have any kind of emotion towards the other characters.

Overall, I can't say I hated this book, because that plot twist still lingers in my mind - it was just so mindblowing. But unfortunately I didn't love it either. Although this happened several times before, I still feel a little bit guilty for not loving a book many people adored. Nevertheless, I might try reading John Corey Whaley's other book in the future - because his writing is indeed beautiful. I hope I would be able to relate to his story better the second time around :))
"Life, he says, doesn't have to be so bad all the time. We don't have to be so 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... We can be comforted in the fact that life will always be a struggle. There will always be false hopes."
by.stefaniesugia♥ .

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