Whaley, John Corey. 2011. WHERE THINGS COME BACK. New York: Atheneum. ISBN 9781442413337 [Suggested Grade Level 8-12]
Whaley’s debut young adult novel won the Printz Award for 2012. Set in a sleepy, dull, Arkansas town, Cullen expects the summer before his senior year to be quietly boring. Sure there is a birdwatcher in town who insists he has found an “extinct” woodpecker which is causing a lot of media commotion, but other than that, not much else is happening, until his younger brother disappears. Fifteen-year-old Gabriel is quiet and gifted, not the type of teen to take off on his own. In a parallel story line, a young missionary in Africa has lost his faith and returns to the South to try to find himself. The intertwining of these two stories-- the loss of faith and the loss of a brother-- in the framework of media frenzy, family issues, lost love, and small town life makes for an intense novel. Whaley grew up in a small town in Louisiana and really “nails” Southern small town life. A former English teacher and only 28 years old, Whaley knows young adult readers and this shows in his expertly crafted novel.
The extinct bird in the book is based on the supposed sighting of the Lazurus Woodpecker. Have students research this sighting.
Other books winning the Michael Printz Award:
Bacigalupi, Paolo. THE SHIP BREAKER. ISBN 9780316056199
Bray, Libba. GOING BOVINE. ISBN 9780385733984
Marchetta, Melina. JELLICOE ROAD. ISBN 9780061431850
McCaughrean, Geraldine. THE WHITE DARKNESS. 9780060890377
By Janet Hilbun