Author: John Corey Whaley
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: May 3, 2011
AR Levels: Interest Level: 9th-12th; Book Level: 5.7; Points: 9.0
In a nutshell: Cullen Witter is a rising high school senior in small town Lily, Arkansas. Over the summer, he loses his cousin to a drug overdose and his beloved and revered brother Gabriel disappears; at the same time, his town is in a frenzy over an extinct woodpecker that has suddenly reemerged. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world in Africa, a missionary struggles to find true meaning in his life. Their stories collide in a way that leaves you wondering and questioning til the very last page.
I'd recommend it for grades: 8th-12th+. The book does contain some cursing and the philosophical/religious elements might be too much for younger middle grades.
I'd recommend it to: Anyone who's dealt with loss or who enjoys a good, well-crafted story.
What I liked most about this book: I liked that the book allowed us into the mind of all different kinds of people who are experiencing the main events.
Single favorite moment (without getting spoiler-y): Cullen's brother, Gabriel, keeps a journal of random thoughts, musings, song lyrics, etc. I was very excited to see shout outs to one of my favorite musicians--Sufjan Stevens.
Star rating (where 5 stars is awesome and 3 stars is atrocious): 4 Stars