Noggin: A Book Review


NogginTitle: Noggin

Author: John Corey Whaley

Published: April 8th, 2014 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Pages: 342

Genre: Young Adult / Science Fiction and Contemporary

Source: Library / Hardcover

Series: Nope!

Summary: 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}

My Thoughts: Noggin is a book with a strange premise; what is a reader to expect when the story is centered around a head transplant?! Fortunately, my worries going into the novel were quickly taken care of as I was sucked into Travis’ life, and by the very end, the story had me a mess of emotions. Noggin – and his award-winning debut Where Things Come Back – have both proven that John Corey Whaley is an author to watch out for, and I think the YA world should provide nothing but thanks for that!

Travis Coates was alive, then died, and now he’s… back? After a successful head transplant, in which his head was placed on a donor’s body, Travis is back home and trying to adjust to his new {as in five years later NEW} surroundings. I won’t lie, the synopsis of this story freaked me out a bit when I first heard about it! It’s far from my typical choices, but I went with my reader’s instinct {that’s a thing, right? :)} when choosing it. The summary doesn’t hold back in showing how unique the book is, and, even better, the author uses this fact to his advantage. He acknowledges the novel’s weirdness, but lets it set the story, rather than overpower it. The plot also pulls aspects from a variety of genres, so despite the odd circumstances Travis is in, it often reads like an everyday contemporary.

On the more negative side, I never connected with Travis. That’s not to say he wasn’t a complex and developed character, but my frustration with his actions and thoughts prevented me from ever “clicking” with him. I doubt that I would react in his situation any better, but Travis’ constant denial of his new life reached a point where it became almost annoying to read about.

Thankfully, the abundance of layered secondary characters keeps the plot moving forward. The author clearly has skill in crafting such layered relationships, and it was interesting to see the ebbs and flow of each one as the story continued. There are many heartbreaking connections, such as when Travis tries to win back his old girlfriend, but there’s a number of positive relations as well – Travis and his new friend Hatton come to mind, as does the friendship between Travis and old buddy, Kyle. 

Noggin falls in between being too serious and being too funny, but that’s truly the biggest part of the book’s appeal. It will satisfy readers who love a variety of genres, whether they are looking for a new science-fiction or are craving a strong contemporary read, for at its core, Noggin is just an observation of the teenage life. Don’t let the book jacket summary scare you away; this is a story worth checking out!

Pros: Whaley manages to pull off an insane idea without losing the reader at the first chapter. The characters are all developed and each serve a purpose in the story as well.

Cons: I never found a connection with the main character, Travis, as I became increasingly frustrated with his reactions to the points in the plot. Were his actions realistic to the situation, though? You bet.

Heads Up: Offhand comments of the romantic nature {I mean, we are talking high school boys here} and language.

Overall: I give it 4 stars {****}, and I recommend it for ages 13 and up.

Have a terrific Tuesday!


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