What It’s About: The way Cullen Witter sees it, everyone is looking for someone, at least in the small town of Lily, Arkansas, where he lives. That couldn’t be more true than during the summer Cullen is seventeen, when everyone in town is looking for the Lazarus Woodpecker, which was supposed to be extinct and has allegedly been spotted in Lily. Everyone is obsessed with the woodpecker, because in a town no one can seem to escape from, the Lazarus gives them hope. There are people who are always looking for their destiny and there are people who have lost someone and will always be looking for that person in everyone they meet. Cullen is looking for himself, and just wants to know why he does the hings he does. But everything changes when his younger brother Gabriel goes missing. Suddenly nothing makes sense and the bird that was just an annoyance and maybe the savior of his hometown is now distracting everyone from Gabriel’s disappearance. As the town searches for the woodpecker in a frenzy and the Witter family searches for Gabriel, Cullen can’t help but wonder if what everyone is saying about the Lazarus woodpecker is true and Lily really is the place where things come back.
Who Will Love It: Fans of realistic teen fiction, and specifically books by John Green.
What I Loved: It’s perceptive, original and well written. In a town where everyone tries to fit people into a bubble or a label, Whaley wrote characters that broke free of this and were more than what people saw them as. It’s a insightful YA novel with a tightly written plot.