Book Review: John Corey Whaley’s “Noggin”

Published 6/17/14 by:

Noggin Cover

 

 

Have you ever thought about what it would be like to come back to life? Have you ever considered what it would be like to have your fairly perfect life taken away from you at the peak of your teenage existence? Sarcastic, charming and earnest narrator Travis Coates is living an absurd and unbelievably lucky life. And it’s his second go at it.

 

When we meet Travis he’s 21-years-old chronologically speaking, but in reality, he died at the age of sixteen because of cancer, and five years later is back from the dead. No, this is not a supernatural thriller; It’s really the most unique coming of age story I’ve ever read. Travis was living a very ordinary teenage life. It got cut short, and now he gets to live an extraordinary teenage life, but with someone else’s body from the neck down.  Allow me to explain: Travis volunteered for a cutting edge (pun intended) medical trial in which his head (which was perfectly healthy and cancer-free) was extracted from his dying body, and frozen. Doctors made no promises to his family as to how soon science would catch up to Travis’ frosted skull, and so everyone was left in a hopeful limbo. Travis’ quirky, thoughtful girlfriend Cate, his (very in the closet) best friend Kyle, his mom, and his dad waited patiently for Travis to maybe return to the living, but five years is a long time, and people move on. Then, Travis woke up.

 

Imagine waking up and being an actual walking modern miracle. That’s Travis’ new existence. Now imagine what it’s like to see what your death did to the people you loved. Then try to wrap your head around (so punny) the fact that your death eventually was a catalyst for your favorite people to move on. Travis was not forgotten, but his remembering, and the way he wants things to be, are very much in the past for his friends and family. Meanwhile he feels like he’s only been asleep for about ten minutes.

“Up until that point, any time someone said my story ‘inspired’ them, I cringed and I wanted to tell them all the reasons why missing everyone’s lives and coming back and being the only one who was the same was the most terrifying thing I could ever imagine.” (Whaley, 293)

 

This is a novel that explores what second chances are, how difficult growing up can be once, and the struggles of it happening a second time without your friends. Travis’ relentlessness in refusing to let go of the past, which to him, unfortunately, still feels like the present, is both heartbreaking and frustrating. His love for Cate never wavers, but time is a beast even a modern miracle like Travis can’t tame:

“They say you can fall out of love with someone just as easily as you fall into it. But is that also the case when the person you love dies? Do you have to fall out of love with them so you can fall in love with someone else?” (Whaley, 247)

 

I was captivated by both the concept of this book, as well as the narrator. Travis has the ability to be reflective, and wise, but his teenage spirit is evoked when his opinions clash with Cate and Kyle. Herein lies the rub: being resurrected ain’t easy.

Book Grade: A-

 

 

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One response to “Book Review: John Corey Whaley’s “Noggin””

  1. Molly Galler says:

    This sounds very cool. I always trust your book recommendations, so I’ll add this one to the list!

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