Whaley, John Corey. Noggin. New York: Antheum Books for Young Readers, 2014. Print. 978-1442458727. 352 p. $17.99. Gr. 9+.

John Corey Whaley, author of the Printz award winning Where Things Come Back, has struck gold with his latest title Noggin. His novel takes the popular teenage coming of age tale and throws in a major twist: the main character essentially dies and is brought back to life. Travis Coates suffered from cancer, and as his body slowly deteriorated and all hope was lost, he was approached by a doctor with a science-fiction like suggestion – they would remove Travis’s head from his body, cryogenically freeze it, and keep it until medical science has advanced and a suitable host body is available. The novel begins with Travis waking up five years later, his head on the body of a sixteen year old boy. The reader does have to exhibit some willing suspension of disbelief to think that something like this could occur in today’s world, and Whaley does not highlight the scientific side of the experience. His goal is to describe how Travis must exist in his new world. Travis is still 16, but his best friend is now 21; his girlfriend, Cate, has a fiance, and Travis becomes obsessed with winning her back. Travis also returns to high school as the modern medical miracle. The narrative alternates from the time before Travis “died” and after he has returned. This technique allows for appreciation of what Travis’s loved ones went through while Travis was ill and explains their actions while he was gone.  At the core of the story lies the theme of how we as humans adapt to the changes in our lives, and how we grow and evolve due to our relationships with others and our varied experiences. Whaley’s characters are wonderfully drawn, engaging, witty, and realistic. Give this book to readers who love John Green and are ready for the next great entry in YA fiction.

Realistic Fiction            Lindsey Myers, Peters Township High School

I absolutely loved this book and cannot recommend it enough. With Noggin, Whaley has solidified himself with the likes of John Green and Sarah Dessen as a writer of thoughtful, well-written, and heart wrenching Young Adult fiction. Teens who are fans of Green’s The Fault in our Stars will love this book. Travis’s experience is similar to that of Green’s main characters Hazel and Augustus, but with a unique twist. Furthermore, the characters are familiar yet distinct in their own right.  I plan on using this title in multiple book talks in the upcoming months, and am eager to hear the students’ reactions. Our English 11 teachers are beginning an independent reading project for which students select a book and then research a specific topic or theme in the book, and this would be a perfect selection for such a project and offer a few different avenues for research.  I believe that teens will easily accept the premise, since dystopian and science fiction are so popular among teens today. The fact that it was a finalist for the 2014 National Book Award heightens the hype around this book, and it is well-earned.  I eagerly await Whaley’s next title!

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