Review: Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley

where-things-come-back

Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Release date: May, 2011
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Pages: 228
Goodreads || Book Depository

In the remarkable, bizarre, and heart-wrenching summer before Cullen Witter’s senior year of high school, everything he thinks he understands about his small and painfully dull Arkansas town vanishes. His cousin overdoses; his town becomes absurdly obsessed with the alleged reappearance of an extinct woodpecker; and, most troubling of all, his sensitive, gifted fifteen-year-old brother, Gabriel, suddenly and inexplicably disappears.

As Cullen navigates a summer of finding and losing love, holding his fragile family together, and muddling his way into adulthood, a young, disillusioned missionary in Africa searches for meaning wherever he can find it. And when those two stories collide, a surprising and harrowing climax emerges that is tinged with melancholy and regret, comedy and absurdity, and above all, hope.

MY THOUGHTS

4 stars

I’m having a hard time putting to words what this book was about. On the surface, When Things Come Back is an emotional mystery about a boy dealing with grief and the strange disappearance of his brother but the novel is about so much more than that. It explores religion and the meaning of life in an intricate and complex way.

When Things Come Back was beautifully written. It has wonderfully constructed prose that draws you into the story and the refuses to let you go. It was philosophical, emotional and, strangely, it also felt like magical realism even though this book is definitely realistic fiction. I really enjoyed the atmosphere of the book and how writing set up the melancholy and stuffiness of this small, sleepy town in Arkansas. I also really loved the occasional third person omniscient narration, which is probably my favourite kind of narration in fiction. I really connected with it and highly enjoyed it. This book is however, mostly written in first person, from Cullen’s point of view. I loved his voice in the book and thought he was very honest and real. However, he did refer to himself in third person a lot and it really threw me off and made the book a little bit confusing. Other than that, I thought the writing was wonderful.

While the book is beautifully written and emotionally impactful, it’s really the last section of the novel that makes this book brilliant. The entire novel is written in alternating chapters, following Cullen and a young missionary called Benton Sage who is sent to Ethiopia at the beginning of the book. I have to admit that I was quite confused for a good 5 chapters of the book because Benton’s story was quite distinct from Cullen’s and I had no idea how they were connected. For a while, I thought Benton’s story was a story that Cullen was writing (because I obviously don’t read blurbs carefully enough) and I just had a hard time seeing how they were connected. However, these stories are connected and they are connected brilliantly. It doesn’t become clear what the connection is until the last 25% of the book, but I thought it was very well done and I definitely didn’t see any of it coming.

This book is definitely unexpected. It is extremely unique and doesn’t go in a direction that is obvious. But having said that, I did find that I couldn’t connect to a large part of the story. There’s a very strong religious component and being not religious at all, I couldn’t really get a grasp on some of the messages in the book. Or put more honestly, I couldn’t really bring myself to care enough about those religious aspects to try to put it all together. However, even with this gap in my knowledge, I still really enjoyed the story. It’s a great exploration of grief and second chances, and it also has some really great friendships and relationships in the book. I loved the friendship between Cullen and his best friend, and I especially loved the relationship between Cullen and his brother, Gabriel.

“To lose a sibling is to lose the one person with whom one shares a lifelong bond that is meant to continue on into the future.”

While this isn’t my favourite John Corey Whaley book that I’ve read (I’ve only read two and Highly Illogical Behaviour is my favourite of the two), I think it brings a very unique and intricately woven story that is full of honesty and emotion. I think this is more appropriate for a more mature YA audience but would definitely recommend it.

Wrap Up: June 2016

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I had the most wonderful reading month in June. I read 21 books this month and I’m ridiculously proud of myself for doing that. I’ve been feeling a bit slumpy for the past few months but I’m glad to have shaken it off now. I’m now 47 books ahead on my Goodreads challenge and can now almost touch my goal of 100 books. Only 4 books away!! I will probably increase it to 150 books once I do reach that goal. In addition to that, I also celebrated my 1 year blogoversary this month. Thank you to everyone to sent me beautiful messages and I hope you enjoyed my giveaways! Now on to my reading summary for the month.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Favourite Character Voices

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This week is freebie week for Top Ten Tuesday! Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature created by The Broke and the Bookish. This week I’m going to feature some books with strong character voices that I really connected with.

1. Adam (The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten)

I read this novel very recently and Adam’s character and his voice really made this book for me. He’s probably one of my favourite protagonists of all time and I couldn’t stop rooting for him.

2. Simon (Carry On by Rainbow Rowell)

Another one of my favourite characters, I mostly love Simon because of his voice. He’s so incredibly funny and adorable, and I sped through this 500 page book because Simon’s voice was so great. I also really loved Baz’s voice too!

3. Todd (Chaos Walking by Patrick Ness)

The thing that you notice immediately when you read the Chaos Walking trilogy is Todd’s voice and the unique writing in the book. It’s very distinctive and really shows who Todd is as a character.

4. Max (Max by Sarah Cohen-Scali)

The thing that made Max such a wonderful book for me was the main character, Max’s, voice. He’s arrogant and vocal about his opinions but that’s kind of why I love him. His character and personality really come through his voice and it was just so interesting to read from the perspective of a fetus and really young child.

5. Solomon (Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley)

Solomon is an agoraphobic who hasn’t left his house in over three years. But that doesn’t make him a boring character. He was such a funny and interesting person and that really came through in his voice. I thought the writing in this book was super strong.

6. Simon (Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli)

Simon is hilarious. He’s somebody that you automatically connect with from the very first chapter. He has a great personality and his voice is extremely relatable.

7. Audrey (Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella)

Audrey is a 14 year old girl who suffers from severe anxiety and depression but she doesn’t come across that way in the book because her voice is so unique and interesting. You can feel her anxiety and shyness but at the same time, you also can feel that she’s a sarcastic and fun-loving character.

8. Frankie (Frankie by Shivaun Plozza)

If you’re looking for a spunky character with lots of sass and attitude, Frankie is the girl for you. Her voice is feisty and sassy and makes her a character who you can’t turn away from.

9. Allyson (Just One Day by Gayle Forman)

Allyson can seem like a little bit of a bland character to some, but to me, she’s so full of life and her voice was completely relatable. I really connected with her character and I thought her voice was really, really strong.

10. Alice (The Stars at Oktober Bend by Glenda Millard)

In this novel, Alice has been through a traumatic incident and now has trouble expressing herself verbally. So she writes poetry to express herself. This book was super interesting and had a great mix of prose and poetry. Alice’s voice and personality was so unique and strong in this book, and is the main reason why I loved it so much!


What are some of your favourite character voices?

Top Ten Tuesday: Favourite 2016 Releases So Far This Year

favourite-2016-releases-so-far

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s theme is favourite 2016 releases so far, which is one of my favourite things to post about. I love recommending books and I’ve rated all of these either 4.5 or 5 stars. These are in no particular order and my full reviews are linked.

1. The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

This was my most recent 5 star reads. I absolutely loved everything about it. It’s a beautiful historical fiction novel set in the 1970s in Alaska, following four teens who are each dealing with personal struggles and how their stories collide. I’ll have a full review up on Thursday.

2. The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson

Morgan Matson is one of my favourite authors. She’s an auto-buy author of mine because she writes the most beautiful and relatable summery contemporaries. The Unexpected Everything was amazing and I loved the characters soooo much!

3. Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley

This was my first John Corey Whaley book and it didn’t disappoint. Featuring an agoraphobic and a wannabe psychologist, this book was moving, powerful and absolutely beautiful. The friendships and relationships in this book are GOALS.

4. Frankie by Shivaun Plozza

This debut novel absolutely blew my mind. Frankie was full of spunk, attitude and just screamed Melbourne and Australia to me. The novel made me laugh and cry and it was just such an experience.

5. A Tangle of Gold by Jaclyn Moriarty

This is the third and final book of Jaclyn Moriarty’s A Colour of Madeleine trilogy. It was mindblowingly good and wrapped up the series so beautifully. There were so many twists and turns and my heart was just beating out of my chest the entire time. If you want something magical and whimsical, this series will give you exactly that.

6. Max by Sarah Cohen-Scali

I love my WWII historical fiction and Max is the standout WWII novel that I’ve read this year. It’s translated from French and has such an interesting premise. It follows Max, a product of the Lebensborn program in Germany, from before he was born until the end of WWII. It was amazing and more people need to read this because it’s so underrated.

7. The Stars at Oktober Bend by Glenda Millard

This book broke my heart and mended it at the same time. It was so beautifully written and had such wonderful relationships. The relationship between Alice and her brother, Joey, made me cry for ages during and after my read. It’s a must-read in my opinion.

8. The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

Another series finale, The Raven King is the fourth and final book of The Raven Cycle. It wasn’t everything that I expected it to be but what Maggie Stiefvater did give us was absolutely brilliant anyway. The characters are definitely the standout and I’ve enjoyed their journey immensely.

9. Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare

I loved this new Shadowhunters book so much!! It was an awesome start to a new series. It wasn’t quite as good as Clockwork Angel for me but I thought it was a superb first book with some really diverse and interesting characters.

10. The Sidekicks by Will Kostakis

Another amazing Aus YA book released this year. I really loved The Sidekicks, which is a story about three boys who are each dealing with grief in their own ways and what happens when they lean on each other.


These are just some of my favourite 2016 releases that I’ve read so far this year. I’m sure there will be many more amazing releases to come. What have been your favourite 2016 releases or 2016 reads?

Review: Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley

highly-illogical-behavior

Publisher: Dial Books
Release date: May 10, 2016
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Pages: 256
Goodreads || Book Depository

Sixteen-year-old Solomon is agoraphobic. He hasn’t left the house in three years, which is fine by him.

Ambitious Lisa desperately wants to get into the second-best psychology program for college (she’s being realistic). But is ambition alone enough to get her in?

Enter Solomon.

Determined to “fix” Sol, Lisa steps into his world, along with her charming boyfriend, Clark, and soon the three form an unexpected bond. But, as Lisa learns more about Sol and he and Clark grow closer and closer, the walls they’ve built around themselves start to collapse and their friendships threaten to do the same.

MY THOUGHTS

5 stars

I knew after reading 15 pages that this book was going to be a 5-star read. John Corey Whaley really knows how to write in a way that connects with readers. He’s definitely a master at moving people with his words.

Written in alternating chapters of Solomon and Lisa, Highly Illogical Behavior explores the friendship that blossoms between them and what a little bit of kindness, companionship and love can do for people. Solomon suffers from agoraphobia, which is the fear of open and public places that are deemed to be dangerous because it may be difficult to escape when a panic attack occurs. After an especially embarrassing panic attack when he was 13, Solomon has stayed inside his house for 3 years, not even stepping outside into his backyard. But Lisa thinks she can fix him. She desperately wants to become a psychologist and in order to get into the second-best psychology program in the United States on a full scholarship, she needs to write an essay on her personal experiences with mental illness. Curing Solomon of his agoraphobia will give her the best chance to win the scholarship with her essay. And she’ll stop at nothing to get what she wants.

What initially drew me to the story was the beautiful writing. There’s just something about third person omniscient that gets me every time. The writing was so full of heart and emotion and it was really impossible for me not to feel touched and love the story. But it was the characters and their interactions that kept me reading and invested in the story. Solomon was a fantastic character and I loved the way that he was portrayed in the novel. He was just a normal kid and wasn’t portrayed as disabled or abnormal in any way. He’s just a kid who has anxiety. We’re all scared of things and his fear just happens to be public spaces. I also loved his family and how supportive they were of him and his condition. They acknowledge that the situation is tough but they don’t force him to change when he’s not ready and they’re there for him when he needs help and support. Their acceptance of who he is was really moving.

He felt it. It was small and it was complicated, but he felt it all the same. He wanted to follow them. He wanted to walk outside and follow them into the world.

I also really, really liked Clark. He was a great best friend to Solomon and I wasn’t expecting him to be as great a friend as he was. But I fell so quickly in love with him and he was such a nice and genuine guy who knows right from wrong. I think his presence really made the book. There were so many hilarious interactions between him and Solomon and it was just so beautiful to see the friendship come to life. Now, Lisa on the other hand, I really did not like at all. She was very pushy and manipulative and I couldn’t really stand how self-centred and egotistic she was. She’s a very confident young woman who believes that there’s nothing she cannot do, even if it means using other people to get what she wants. Her character definitely developed throughout the book and I eventually did start to like her, but for most of the novel, I couldn’t really stand her. But what I thought was really great was the fact that the friendships in this book helped not only Solomon, but also Lisa to become a better person who treats those around her with more care and love.

There’s really not much more that I can say besides “read this book”. It’s a short book that is really quick to read and you’ll definitely laugh and cry with the characters.