john corey whaley

Noggin Book Review

“Listen- I was alive once and then I wasn’t. Simple as that. Now I’m alive again. The in-between part is still a little fuzzy, but I can tell you that, at some point or another, my head got chopped off and shoved into a freezer in Denver, Colorado.” These are the opening sentences to John Corey Whaley’s book Noggin. This book was next on my list from the ALA 2015 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults. 

The premise of this book was very intriguing.  The main character, Travis Coates, agrees to have his head severed and cryogenically frozen. Every part of Travis’s body, except his head, was sick with cancer. No amount of chemo, radiation, or blood marrow transplants could save his life. The only hope he has is sometime in the way distant future science will evolve so that his head can be reattached to a healthy body and give him another chance at life. It took a bit of convincing, but in the end, both Travis and parents agree to procedure.

Few people believed it would be possible, Travis being one of them. When he awakes to find his head attached to Jeremy Pratt’s body, it feels like no time has passed. In reality, it’s been five years since his friends and family said good-bye to him. Everyone and everything around him has changed. His best friend Kyle is now in college, and his girlfriend Cate is engaged. Travis must navigate through this new life of being alive in the present while still being stuck in the past.

Often times when tragedy strikes we are stuck with how to navigate uncharted waters. We want life to be the way it’s always been and struggle with how to live under new circumstances. It’s easier to fall back on what’s known to us than to venture out into the scary unknown. We have a hard time letting go of the past. While Travis’s situation is quite a bit different than any tragedy we might face, the struggle of being stuck living in the present while wanting the past is all to familiar.

Overall I found Noggin to be an interesting concept. We’re talking about head transplants! The idea about being frozen in time and waking up like no time has past at all kind of blows my mind. It’s like a modern day Frankenstein’s monster type of thing, but without the electricity and a bit more humanoid. I had a difficult time staying forced with this read. It didn’t truly grab my attention until I was a little over halfway through. It wasn’t until things got a bit more action-packed that I started to appreciate what was happening in the story. I couldn’t really feel sorry for him because he chose to do the experiment. He has to live with the consequences of his decision.  The end will tug at your heart and cause you to shed a few tears, though.

I did enjoy the way the chapters were named. The last few words from the previous chapter then become the chapter title for the next one. Chapter thirty-three ends with “I don’t know. We’re just meandering.” And chapter thirty-four is, “Just Me and a Ring.” I found it to be rather creative of the author.

The book was okay. I don’t see myself ever reading it again, but I appreciate the way Whaley explores the concept of letting go of the past and finding a way to still hold on to the things we love after they change. 

Would you ever choose to have your head cryogenically frozen if it meant that you might be able to live longer?