I want to sip tea and contemplate this book for hours on end.
I read Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley because my sister bought it years ago and didn’t like it. I can understand why she didn’t: the back of the book almost seems to mislead you, because it makes it seem as though the book is closer to a murder-mystery, or at least a crime novel, than a standard YA coming-of-age book. And the novel could have easily been a crime story, focusing on the kidnapping of the brother and the protagonist’s quest for answers. But instead, Where Things Come Back takes a realistic approach and looks at the characters: it is a study in why people do the things they do, and how people react to the life around them. In short, it is a stunningly beautiful story about who we are and how each choice we make leads to the place where all of our choices come back.
I don’t even want to review this book because I loved it so much. At times, the prose is confusing, especially since there are two stories going on, and they don’t initially seem to fit together at all. The protagonist will sometimes dissociate from his own story (he’s telling it in first person) and refer to himself in the third. This maneuver, I think, is brilliant, but sometimes, when you’re not paying attention, it can get confusing and the words blur together and you just feel kind of lost for a second or two before you find your place again. Overall, the prose is nice to read, but it does have its bumps.
The characters I think could be fleshed out a bit better, especially some of the stranger side characters (like the parents), but I did find everyone to be likable. When they made confusing or contradictory choices, they still made sense because these reactions felt very real and very human. I would have liked a bit more meat to my characters to chew on, but I did really enjoy getting to know them and found their humanity really heartwarming and familiar.
The conclusion of the story is stunning, not because it’s unexpected, but because it truly is the place where things come back. It made my stomach plummet and my heart sink then soar. It’s really a beautiful little book, and I’m so happy that my sister disliked it because it’s mine now (heheh). I don’t think this story is going to be leaving me any time soon.
4 extinct birds out of 5