Google+ YA Romantics: Just Finished Reading ... Where Things Come Back

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Just Finished Reading ... Where Things Come Back

I've been picking a theme for my reviews lately. Here's this week's theme: I Was Wrong.

I grew up in a book-loving family, but when I was a kid I dreaded getting books as gifts. Why? Because when I picked up a flat, rectangular package wrapped in birthday paper, I knew what was inside.

A medal book.

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Medal books were the kind of books grown ups wanted me to read. They were broccoli on a page. I would dutifully put them on my bookshelf and ignore them.

So today, I'm here to tell all of the internet that I was wrong.


Medal books are actually pretty good. Some are downright amazing. For the next three days, I'm featuring Printz winners and Printz honor books. (On Friday, Hunger Games Mania will commence.)

To keep things fun, I'm including Printz trivia. There are no prizes, but you get bragging rights for being smart. First up, this year's Printz winner:

Where Things Come Back
by John Corey Whaley
Atheneum Books For Young Readers
May 3, 2011
Source: library
Printz Winner 2011
Mature content: cursing, sex

I started Where Things Come Back and fell instantly in love. I mean, the book opens in a morgue. The narrator is a smart, snarky boy stuck in a small Arkansas town. There are lots of quirky Southern Gothic-type characters, like a high school girl whose boyfriends all seem to die under tragic circumstances. There are references to To Kill a Mockingbird, Our Town, zombie movies, the Bible, and even Twilight -- does any twenty-first century author name his main character Cullen without irony?

I loved where I thought this book was going. I was happy.

Then something completely unexpected happened. The narrative shifted to the third person. The setting shifted to Ethiopia. This new storyline was like Book of Mormon: The Musical without the gross-out humor and the singing. Me: "What? Just? Happened?"

The narrative kept switching back and forth like this, from Cullen's story in Lily, Arkansas to the missionary in Africa. Back and forth, back and forth. Cullen's younger brother Gabriel disappeared. The missionary returned to the United States. The rare Lazarus woodpecker was sighted in Lily, Arkansas.  I kept reading.

I read and read, seeing absolutely no way that the author was going to be able to tie everything together in a way that made any sense. But I'll be darned if he didn't pull it off. Okay, he used a bit of narrative slight-of-hand, but in a way that left my mouth so wide open I was expecting Cullen break the fourth wall and tell me I'd be catching flies.

This book is not for everyone, to be sure. It's almost impossible to describe. I'm kind of a control freak when I read -- I like to know in general where the author is taking me. With this book, I had to let all that go. And I'm really glad that I did.

Give it a try and let me know what you thought.

Printz Trivia for the day:


This Printz Honor book was adapted into a 2004 indie film starring Kristen Stewart. Can you name it?

Sure, you can answer in comments! Just avert your eyes if you don't want to read other people's guesses!

If you don't know the answer, then tell me: have you ever read a book that took a completely unexpected turn?

29 comments:

  1. I was too late today lol!! I was playing with the kiddo, but I did know that it was Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. Great review. I have heard it's a really awesome book, but I haven't read it.

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    1. It's good!
      Donating The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May and June for you :)

      Delete
  2. Wow, I love this review. I didn't know there were two narrators! It definitely makes me want to read the book more.

    Ashelynn @ Gypsy Book Reviews.

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    1. Yeah, and not even two narrators commenting on the same events. Two completely different narrative threads that come together at the end.

      For you , I'm donating Paper Covers Rock by Jenny Hubbard

      Delete
  3. Ok. technically I am on a blogging break this week (for spring cleaning) but I am still checking my reader here and there and I had to stop to say Yay! for this post and double Yay! for Lois Lenski's Strawberry Girl!! I still have my copy of that book which I read in 4th grade:))

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    1. Oh, the shame. I still have never read Strawberry Girl and I KNOW that is one of the books I got as a gift when I was nine or ten. I'm having my mom put that in a box with the Nancy Drews.

      Donating The Comeback Season by Jennifer E. Smith for you :)

      Delete
  4. I have heard some great things about Where Things Come Back, so I've added it to the TBR list. But now I'm really thinking of picking it up soon. The back and forth narration sounds interesting and I'm wondering how it all comes together... Great review! And Speak is also on my TBR list - I've seen the movie and think Kristen Stewart actually did a really good job in it, even though I really can't stand her in Twilight...

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    1. Speak is EXCELLENT!!
      Rule is anyone who mentions Twilight gets that donated for them:
      New Moon for you :)
      The kids will love it!

      Delete
    2. Aw, man! New Moon is the worst of the books! ;) But hey, I did enjoy them and there are definitely worse books out there. Such a cool thing you're doing, by the way!

      Delete
    3. LOL. Okay, I still have a big stack left and only one more day to donate.

      So I'll donate a middle grade classic: Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick.

      Delete
  5. I have Where Things Come Back on reserve at the library--I cannot wait to read it!

    I loved Speak--it has made me want to read others by her.

    And I admit I appreciate some of the award winners more now than I did when I was younger.

    Shanan
    http://thebookaddictnet.blogspot.com/

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    1. The wisdom that comes with age!

      Donating The Enormous Crocodie by Roald Dahl for you.

      Delete
    2. Oh I haven't read Dahl in a long time. I need to do some re-reading!

      I think you have stated the one of the only advantages to age...lol. :)

      Delete
  6. I had to Google it, but yes it is SPEAK.

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    1. Yep.
      Donating Lily of the Nile by Stephanie Dray !

      Delete
  7. Of course! speak. at the end of my copy there is an interview with the author where she describes her reactions to the movie. its an amazing, sad book

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    1. I want to see the movie!

      Donating Fury by Elizabeth Miles

      Delete
  8. I remember Witch of Blackbird Pond. I can't wait to read Whaley's book.

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    1. Witch of Blackbird Pond is a really good book!

      Donating The Unwritten Rule by Elizabeth Scott :)

      Delete
  9. I haven't read the book Speak but I have seen the movie. Where Things Come Back sounds like an interesting book. I would like to read this book to see how the two differing narrator and plot come together.

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  10. Now I really want to see the movie!

    Donating Rhymes with Witches by Lauren Myracle. It is described as "a creepy, can't put it down thriller."

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  11. I didn't know the answer, but it is amazing what I am learning from your blog this week! Your broccoli award book comment cracked me up, as did your review. I will definitely be reading this in the future. I love award books, but sometimes I'm not in the mood to delve into them, if you know what I mean.

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    1. I just realized I didn't answer your other question about a book I read that took a completely different turn. I know there have been many, but off the top of my head I would say The Clockwork Prince (didn't see the ending completely coming), Pegasus by McKinley (she writes stand-alones and this one ends in a cliff-hanger), and Silence by Fitzpatrick (I thought it was going to end and then it was just "What?"). I know there are a bunch more and probably better examples, but I can't think of them right now. :)

      Delete
    2. Ooh, I have Clockwork Angel and Clockwork Prince on my TBR pile. I think I'm the only person in YA who hasn't read them.
      I'm saving them for my summer vacation.

      Donating Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer. i wonder if they'll keep the Twilight set together..

      Delete
  12. I haven't read Speak, although I did see the movie one time on tv. I found it kind of interesting and a little ironic at the same time. How the title is Speak but the main character doesn't speak much. But it was still good. After reading your review of Where Things Come Back, the title makes perfect sense with how the two different narrations come together to tie up the book. Still seems random to go from first person and then suddenly switch and go back and forth but this book does sound pretty interesting. I remember reading Recycled Souls Lynette Ferreira. Definitely takes a turn in the story I wouldn't have seen coming but still a book I totally loved reading.

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  13. I am currently reading Where Things Come Back! I'm excited to see how it ends!! :D

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