Do you ever read a book and think to yourself “I think this is just like such-and-such book” or “isn’t this a copycat of ____”? Well, this isn’t one of those books. Noggin by John Corey Whaley is so uniquely its own that it can’t even be compared to anything else.
The book follows Travis Coates, a 16-year-old who is going to die soon. His cancer has continued to grow despite every treatment available. And honestly, Travis is tired of fighting it. But when a scientist/doctor shows up and offers Travis’s life back, he’s all ears. But to live out the rest of his life, Travis will need to have his head transferred to another body (a head transplant? a body transplant?) and be willing to live the rest of his life in someone else’s body. When Travis agrees to this crazy procedure, he wakes up five years later with a new body and friends who have grown up without him.
You need to read it. Here are three reasons why.
1–It’s science fiction…kind of.
This isn’t the kind of science fiction that has aliens, robots, or outer space chases. And frankly, even though a head/body transplant sounds completely crazy, it could probably become realistic someday (I wouldn’t put it past science). It looks at the possibilities of medicine and asks all those questions of how far is too far, is living on Earth worth the risk of losing “normalcy,” and who actually struggles the most in a procedure like this. And of course, it asks the readers whether we would agree to such a procedure. So if science fiction can seem too much, this isn’t “crazy” sci fi. But if you love what science fiction questions about our scientific future, this fits the bill.
2–It’s light and even funny.
Let’s be honest–YA books aren’t often funny. Depressing, deep, sullen–yes. But not often funny. Author John Corey Whaley makes light of such a crazy medical procedure and has fun with it. He looks at the plot from all angles–Travis being labeled “Noggin” as the kid with a neck scar, Travis now being classmates with his friends’ younger siblings, Travis trying to win back his girlfriend through karaoke. Even the writing style is light and creative. The chapter titles are the last few words of the previous chapter. This creative style keeps the book fun and intriguing. A book about a full body transplant has the potential to be overwhelming, but the plot of Noggin takes the opposite approach.
3–Travis is a great protagonist.
You can’t help but love Travis. The poor guy feels like he’s taken a nap but learns that five years have gone by for his perfect transplant match. So he has a lot to figure out. Like whether or not his former girlfriend will break off her engagement to be with him. Or why his best friend still hasn’t come out in the past five years. And Travis takes it all in stride as best he can. He makes new friends, feels compassion for his family, and allows himself to be the mocked center of attention. He struggles with wanting the life he had and yet knowing he has to move forward. But how do you move forward when you feel like you’re behind everyone else? Travis is such an interesting protagonist and keeps readers invested in the story.
Noggin is fun, light-hearted, and even a little crazy. A great read when you don’t want to go into full-blown science fiction but want to check out the bizarre. Go read it!
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