Wednesday, June 25, 2014

YA Review: Noggin by John Corey Whaley


Travis Coates died of cancer five years ago.
Or at least, his body did. His head was cryogenically preserved until which time that a donor body could be collected for him to be reanimated with. 
Sounds crazy, right?

Well it sounded that way to his girlfriend, best friend, and parents also, when he told them five years ago that he'd be ending his fight with cancer and flying to Denver for the operation that would hopefully give him a second chance at life. 

For five years, they mourned him, and continued with life, until a crazy thing happened.

It worked.
Now, Travis is back, and feeling as though he only just told them goodbye when the anesthesia set in. So finding out that his girlfriend is now 21 and engaged, or that his best friend is living at college, is a shock to say the least. His parents are oddly the same, and his room is some "gray ikea nightmare" that he's never seen before. And worst of all, he's back in high school, and back in the same algebra class he hated the first time. 

What I loved about this book was how effortlessly it read. It was a one-sitting read, in fact. Travis was a very believable 16 year old boy, trapped in a 22 year old brain, blessed with a new 16 year old body. Every little thing that one would think to be a quirky and humorous thought, (what's it like to have another person's private parts, or how weird would it be to have an entire body to reject rather than an organ), was included. Travis was very present and understanding of how weird everything about his second chance at life was, and he made light of it in order to make sense of it for himself and those around him. He was a really cool kid, who had awful luck the first go round, and you couldn't help but feel bad for him even though he'd clearly been given a second chance. 

The love story of he and Cate, the girlfriend who'd had to watch him wither away, was almost toothache painful to read, because it was so honest. He was just on the verge of living a wonderful life until that stupid cancer just came in and pulled the rug right out from under everyone. Travis' anger and frustration was palpable. I know what it feels like to overcome something and still be furious that you can't recover the things you lost along the way. 

The author doesn't spend too much time on the particulars, which to me felt like an episode of Futurama anyway, and didn't focus on the religious or scientific implications either. That said, nothing felt completely ridiculous, and I was quite taken with how seamlessly, no head pun intended, the merger of fact and clear fantasy were intertwined. 

I won't post any spoilers, but I definitely recommend this one to anyone looking for a great male protagonist, and a touching but entertaining story. 


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