Book Reviews

Book Review: Noggin by John Corey Whaley

nogginSixteen-year old Travis Coates decided that he did not want to suffer through his losing battle with cancer. He, instead, accepts an offer to cryogenically freeze his head—the only part of him not riddled with cancer. When the time was right (you know how science can be) and a donor body had been found, Travis would be brought back. What Travis did not realize was that his time would come  to be brought back a mere five years later. After waking from his head transplant, Travis soon finds that life moved on without him; his parents got rid of all his stuff, his girlfriend is now engaged, and his best friend is in college…and living a lie. Travis must return to the school he left behind and relive his sixteenth year, only with a healthy body. He makes some new friends, rekindles his old friendships and tries to win back the affections of the love of his young life—all with a little comedic flare and a few touching moments.

My Reaction:

I liked this book, but I didn’t love it. I think the idea behind the plot is really unique—Hello!? Head transplant!—but, far-fetched. The characters were developed well and story as a whole had nice flow. It is told by Travis after he wakes and shifts between his recent experiences and memories of before the procedure. It think structuring the story this way helped to add some authenticity to such an “out-there-in-left-field” story. With that said, there were some inconsistencies that really made it difficult for me to love this book (which is rare, because I generally love just about everything I read, as you may have noted from my GoodReads ratings).

First, a number of characters make some mention of Travis’ time as a severed head, cryogenically frozen…and there are a number of times when he/someone mentions not having been dead during that time, or not having been ‘brought back from the dead’ because he wasn’t dead in the first place. WHAT!? If your head was severed…you were dead. Period. End of story.

Second, I get that Travis is sixteen—even after he was brought back—because he never lived through his sixteenth year and he was frozen at that age, but why was he sent back to high school?  That was really what his parents thought would be best for him? There wasn’t a GED program or online high school that he could have attended? His birthdate obviously proves—which he does use at one point to get into a karaoke bar—that he is technically (physically?) not sixteen, so strongly suspect that no school would accept him back at 21 years old.

Besides those few plot issues, I thought the story was fun, engaging, and I did enjoy reading it for the sake of staying current in my collection. Recommended for grades 9-12.

Themes: cancer, coming of age, contemporary, cryogenics, death, drama, fantasy, sci fi fiction, first love, friendship, grief, humor, Kansas City, leukemia, LGBTQ, mad scientist, male protagonist, organ transplants, relationships, science fiction, teen, YA, young adult

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