Where Things Come Back - Read-n-Feed

Thank you to everyone who entered the giveaway for the signed copy of The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd. There were lots of fun answers to the question of what animal people would like to be spliced with, but birds and felines were the clear winners. From reading the answers, I think if we could all be flying cats, most of us would be pretty darn happy! 
 
So now, the moment you’ve been waiting for . . . according to Rafflecopter, the winner is . . . Wayne D. Congratulations! I’ll send you an email to get your address.
 
For today’s Read-n-Feed post, I'm jumping back to last year's YALLFest and featuring one of the authors I saw there.
 
Category: Young Adult
Genre(s): contemporary literary
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (2011)
Pages: 228
Awards: Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature (2012) and William C. Morris YA Debut Award(2012)
Amazon Description: 
In the remarkable, bizarre, and heart-wrenching summer before Cullen Witter’s senior year of high school, he is forced to examine everything he thinks he understands about his small and painfully dull Arkansas town. 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.
 
Meanwhile, the crisis of faith spawned by a young missionary’s disillusion in Africa prompts a frantic search for meaning that has far-reaching consequences. As distant as the two stories initially seem, they are woven together through masterful plotting and merge in a surprising and harrowing climax.
 
This extraordinary tale from a rare literary voice finds wonder in the ordinary and illuminates the hope of second chances.
 
Since I’m more of a thrills-and-chills-plot-driven kinda gal, I don’t read literary fiction as often as I probably should (I also usually skip my veggies to guarantee room for dessert). But I saw John Corey Whaley speak as part of the History & Mystery panel at YALLFest, and he was so charming and adorable as the lone dude on a panel of kick-butt women (like Robin Wasserman and Sarah Rees Brennan) that I decided to add his book to my frightfully high TBR pile.
 
After reading Where Things Come Back, my writing lesson is to experiment more with POV and tenses, since Corey uses various configurations within his novel. The odd numbered chapters are written in first person past tense by the protagonist Cullen. But at certain points Corey strategically breaks the strict POV/tense rules that are drummed into writers’ heads: when Cullen relays wisdom and advice given to him by the mysterious Dr. Webb, it is in first person present tense; and then there are other sections that always start with “When one is” which explain in third person present tense what Cullen is doing (sneaking out the window, lying on the floor, etc.) and describe the elaborate scenario he imagines as he does it.
 
As for the even numbered chapters, they are written in third person past tense and cycle through the POVs of several seemingly unrelated characters. They wouldn’t be included if they weren’t going to ultimately converge with Cullen’s story, but seeing how all the pieces eventually fit together is itself a lesson about how the most random things (such as walking out of a boring movie) can have huge repercussions on many lives down the road. 
 
At first the various POV/tense switches were a tad confusing, but I eventually settled into the rhythm, and as I did I realized it was the rhythm of a classic southern storyteller. Corey captured on the page the way my grandparents used to tell us stories in a languid manner, winding from one part of the story to the next, summarizing some parts, sharing small, quirky details at other parts, and along the way switching tenses and POVs as needed to best tell an entertaining tale. Instead of boxing himself into one POV and tense, Corey manipulated them to give his novel a particular voice.
 
I tend to gravitate to first person past tense in my writing, but this shows me how important it is to play around with the various options to give a different sound and feel to my stories. Who knows, maybe I’ll even go hog wild and use second person!
 
If you’ve read Where Things Come Back, what did you think? What POV and tense do you usually use in your writing? Do you ever use more than one in a story?

Comments

Jess@Fairday's Blog's picture

I haven't read Where Things Come Back- but I am definitely curious about the different POV/tense changes. I don't recall reading many other books like this. Thanks for sharing!

Lexa Cain's picture

Congrats to Wayne for winning the book! I hope he likes it.

I give you a lot of credit for reading something that's Contemp and literary. I have the attention span of a gnat and couldn't take something slow to develop or that constantly changes POV/tense, which draws attention to the writing and away from the story. I enjoyed reading your thoughtful review though! :-)

Medeia sharif's picture

Congrats to Wayne.

The cover of that book looks more MG to me. I was surprised when I read it's about a high school senior.

Laurel Holman's picture

I love that you take writing lessons from the books you read and share them! This one sounds worth checking out for the unusual POV. I agree, it's good to shake ourselves out of our comfort zones from time to time and experiment with a POV we don't usually use. Good going!

Jocelyn Rish's picture

Jess - Yeah, I hadn't read anything quite like this before either.

Lexa - It's not my normal thing either, since I also prefer getting sucked into the story rather than noticing the writing, but it was an interesting change of pace.

Medeia - It does look a little MG, but there's tons of cussing, so I hope there aren't any younger readers who end up getting more than they bargained for! :-)

Laurel - Thanks! I feel better about justifying the time I spend reading it I can present some homework from it. :-)

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