I always have a goal to read the Newbery and Printz Award books. There are times where I actually stop reading the Printz books b/c of the content. YA books can be clean and fabulous or they can be full of language, drugs, and sex. I honestly wish some YA authors didn't include so much inappropriate content, but I think those authors think that is what a teenager wants to read. However, I have known several teenagers to love a good clean book the same as a not so clean book. Teenagers really want a good book they can relate to and get sucked into. Teenagers don't need to read a lot of bad language, references to drugs, and explicit sex to enjoy a book. To the surprise of some authors, your normal teenager does not relate to all of that junk. Unfortunately, I am just a lowly librarian and not every author is going to read my blog. To be honest, I doubt any authors that read this blog. However, I wish the would read this one statement. If you write a good book (and please keep it clean to make the parents, teachers, and librarians happy) they, the YAs, will flock to read the book. Alright, that is enough of my soapbox.
Now, onto my review of Where Things Come Back. I did contemplate at times stopping the book b/c of the language. If I were to give the crude language in the book a grade I would have to give it a D+; it may not have been the worst I have ever read, but it was far more than necessary. I did feel that the crude language was just thrown in some actually a lot of sentences even though it wasn't necessary. There was a brief instance to drugs, but that was quite brief. Cullen's, one of the main characters, cousin is addicted to drugs and overdoses. That is the only reference to drugs. I personally do not consider that bad at all b/c it doesn't go into any detail. There are a few, no more than five, mentions of sex, but it is not as explicit as you find in other novels. However, the main character does have sex with girls and he wakes up in their bed the next morning. That is the extent of what you read about sex. To be honest, this book wasn't the worst YA book in regards to content of language, sex, and drugs that I have ever read (I finished it so that is saying something), but it does have more language than I would've liked. I wanted to say this at the beginning so you would know right away what you are getting into.
Where Things Come Back is Whaley's first novel. Even though it took me a good 50 pages to get into the book, it was a little slow and random (like a Sufjan song at times) at the beginning. However, once the story started to move along I was intrigued. I was intrigued with how all of these random characters and their stories were going to come together. It wasn't until it was practically spelled out to me did I start to connect some of the dots. Some of you may make those connections sooner, but I'm pretty sure it won't be a predictable story.
Amazon had the following review:
"Just when seventeen-year-old Cullen Witter thinks he understands everything about his small and painfully dull Arkansas town, it all disappears. . . .
In the summer before Cullen's senior year, a nominally-depressed birdwatcher named John Barling thinks he spots a species of woodpecker thought to be extinct since the 1940s in Lily, Arkansas. His rediscovery of the so-called Lazarus Woodpecker sparks a flurry of press and woodpecker-mania. Soon all the kids are getting woodpecker haircuts and everyone's eating "Lazarus burgers." But as absurd as the town's carnival atmosphere has become, nothing is more startling than the realization that Cullen’s sensitive, gifted fifteen-year-old brother Gabriel has suddenly and inexplicably disappeared.
While Cullen navigates his way through a summer of finding and losing love, holding his fragile family together, and muddling his way into adulthood, a young missionary in Africa, who has lost his faith, is searching for any semblance of meaning wherever he can find it. As distant as the two stories seem at the start, they are thoughtfully woven ever closer together and through masterful plotting, brought face to face in a surprising and harrowing climax.
Complex but truly extraordinary, tinged with melancholy and regret, comedy and absurdity, this novel finds wonder in the ordinary and emerges as ultimately hopeful. It's about a lot more than what Cullen calls, “that damn bird.” It’s about the dream of second chances."
I was intrigued with the complexity and depth of the story; however, I did feel the story was a bit slow and drug at times. All in all, I think I would give this book a 3 out of 5 stars. I am not surprised it is a Printz winner; it is very Printz winner like if you know what I mean. However, the masses won't be attracted to this book (and they haven't been b/c I have been able to renew the book several times).
Good job Whaley on winning a Printz with your first book. It is a lot of pressure to live up to with your next book. I'm just curious on which Sufjan Steven's song will inspire him next time.
*I apologize for any grammatical errors. I have two crying babies that I need to tend to.*