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Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley

7 Oct

Well, it’s been a whopper of a week, folks. Between sicksies and worksies and all around busy..sies, I haven’t had much time to write. I almost considered just NOT reviewing John Corey Whaley’s wonderful¬†Where Things Come Back because it has a shiny medals on its cover so probably doesn’t need my promotion, but what the hey. It’s such a treat I thought I should probably go ahead and share.

I was seventeen years old when I saw my first dead body.

Cullen Witter is a snarky, intelligent teenage boy longing to escape the black hole that is his sleepy hometown of Lily, Arkansas. His world, both in micro and macro, unravels with a series of dramatic events during the summer before his senior year in high school. It starts with his cousin dying of an overdose, continues with Lily getting obsessed with the supposed reappearance of the extinct Lazarus woodpecker, and then things come completely undone when his beloved, sensitive fifteen-year-old brother, Gabriel, inexplicably disappears without a trace. Meanwhile, Benton Sage, a failed missionary trying to re-create his life after returning from a failed mission to Africa in utter disillusionment inadvertently infects his college room mate, Cabot Searcy, with an obsessive religious fanaticism, starting a chain of events that slowly draws these two disparate narratives together like ill-fated magnets.

I’ll start by saying that this is one of those books that makes me feel insecure about my own writing. Not only did this book win the Printz, which is prestigious enough, but it also won William C. Morris YA Debut Award. So, not only is this book really well-written and stupid full of literary merit, it’s also John Corey Whaley’s first book ever. Seriously? Just get out of here. I will say, however, that there were certain other Printz contenders that I loved more (ahem Scorpio Races ahem), but that’s more personal taste than anything else.

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The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

22 Jul

As a longtime avid consumer of storytelling, I’ve slowly put together a mental list of writers who have made me cry longer and harder than I would care to admit: Patrick Ness, Philip Pullman, J.K. Rowling, Joss Whedon. Now, granted, I cry pretty easily, but as far as I’m concerned a writer’s ability to bring me to tears speaks to their ability to make me care about their characters. I sometimes think that reading or engaging in narrative of any kind brings on a sort of temporary lunacy in me; how else can you explain getting hysterical over someone or something that doesn’t actually exist?

I started thinking about all this crying gobbledie gook after I watched the series finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer a couple nights ago after a year long binge of the entire series in chronological order. It was one of those things where I was unsure whether I wanted people there for emotional support or not, and now that that trauma is over I can honestly say I am so happy I was home alone, because the word “crying” doesn’t adequately describe the sounds that were coming out of me.¬† Point being, sometimes I wonder whether I want to knight these tear-jerking writers for making me love their characters so much and sometimes I want to sue them for emotional damages. Now, after reading The Fault in Our Stars, John Green has made his way onto my STOP MAKING ME CRY, YOU JERK list.

Hazel was thirteen years old when she was diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer, and fourteen years old when a miracle drug dragged her from her death bed. Two years later she is stuck in a rut of depression (a “side effect of dying”) when her parents force her to go to a cancer kid support group where she meets an Adonis with a prosthetic leg, Augustus. They develop an existentially fraught relationship that juggles the meaning of life, mortality, and making out.

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