Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Noggin by John Corey Whaley

Noggin by John Corey Whaley
Published: April 8, 2014 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Source: From the publisher via edelweiss - thank you!
Listen — Travis Coates was alive once and then he wasn’t.

Now he’s alive again.

Simple as that.

The in between part is still a little fuzzy, but he can tell you that, at some point or another, his head got chopped off and shoved into a freezer in Denver, Colorado. Five years later, it was reattached to some other guy’s body, and well, here he is. Despite all logic, he’s still 16 and everything and everyone around him has changed. That includes his bedroom, his parents, his best friend, and his girlfriend. Or maybe she’s not his girlfriend anymore? That’s a bit fuzzy too.

Looks like if the new Travis and the old Travis are ever going to find a way to exist together, then there are going to be a few more scars.

Oh well, you only live twice. [goodreads]

When I first heard about the concept for this story, my head literally spun (see what I did there?).  The idea that someone could get a body transplant from the neck down sounds completely absurd.  How in the world is that even possible?!  Well, my friends, that's the beauty of literature when its written by such a hysterically poetic man as John Corey Whaley.  He makes it possible by crafting a story that is so rich with life, you begin to believe NOGGIN is more than just fiction.

Teenage Travis has been dealt a crappy hand at life with a body that refuses to be kind and decides its had enough.  New medicine has revealed that he's eligible for  a new body.  All he has to do is have his head chopped off, kept in a freezer, and wait til his donor body is ready.  But there are no guarantees.  How do you make such a risky, difficult decision?  Travis takes the leap of faith and goes through with the surgery, imparting temporary goodbyes to his parents, girlfriend, and best friend. 

Five years go by and Travis's head remains frozen.  Then one day the unthinkable happens.  They've found a donor body and Travis's head is reattached, reborn, reawakened.  For Travis its felt like a quick nap, as if he closed his eyes for just a few minutes, and then it was time to wake up.  He's unaware of his world that's moved on, yet in some ways stayed the same, for the past five years.  Can you even begin to imagine?!

As the story progresses we follow Travis as he learns his new body, in what should be his same world, but he quickly finds out is all too unfamiliar.  He's this kid that the media wants to splash all over TV screens and magazine tabloids.  Not only is he trying to adjust to this second chance at life he's been given, but he has to do it while EVERYONE watches.  Whaley gives Travis an unforgettable voice.  One that had me laughing one minute, only to be flooded with tears the next.  The relationships that Travis encounters after five years of not knowing what will be are definitely tested at their bounds.

There's a moment in Travis's home when he finds the cremated remains of his previous body, that caused me to hold my breath while reading, uncertain of how this heavy moment will play out.  The realization, literally in his hands, of what he's been through was just too surreal.  Then to follow up that scene with a comical mishap is pure genius on Whaley's part.  I definitely feel that this novel is a story that will cling to your heart, remind you of how precious our lives are, and how irreplaceable some moments can be.

Do yourself a favor and grab NOGGIN as soon as it becomes available.  Its a story not to miss, and one I will continue to recommend over and over again.


  1. Yes! I felt the same way about this book. Even though the concept is way out there, it's written in a way that feels very realistic. I ADORED Travis's voice. I don't really laugh out loud often when I'm reading, but he was hilarious.

  2. This concept is just so incredible, and I have NO DOUBT that Corey knocks it out of the park! Glad to hear you say so though. :)

  3. I'm going to be perfectly honest - I wasn't the biggest fan of Whaley's Where Things Come Back when I read it last year. I understood where the author intended to go with it, but I just never connected with the characters or the story emotionally and I felt that the pacing positively dragged. That said, I've heard nothing but absolutely glowing things about Noggin, and I would be lying if I said I weren't a little curious because of what an inventive premise it has. I can't even begin to imagine what it would be like to re-enter life as though not a minute has passed, while everyone and everything around you has changed irreparably. Frankly, it sounds absolutely heartbreaking, although from what you've said it sounds as though Travis' voice (thankfully) helps to mitigate that a little. Admittedly, I'm still a little wary based on my less-than-positive experience with Whaley's previous work, but I think you just might have convinced me to dip my toes back into the water again.

  4. This is coming up in my TBR list soon and I am so excited! I think I first heard about it from you, so I figured I'd like it, but I've seen so many other really positive reviews lately that I'm feeling even more excited (in a good way, not in a too high expectations way).

  5. I am ashamed! I still haven't read Where Things Came Back... but I just read another really good review for it last week so I swear, I'm going to do it. The acclaim for this book is crazy already. I love the unique concept, and happy that it worked for you! Esp. since you are such a fan of Whaler's.


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