Noggin – John Corey Whaley



  • Simon & Schuster UK
  • 352 pages |
  • ISBN 9781471122897 |
  • August 2014 |
  • Grades 9 and up

List Price

AU$ 14.99

NZ$ 16.99

Listen – Travis Coates was alive once and then he wasn’t. 
Now he’s alive again.  Simple as that …

I’ve read some unusual YA books in the past year or so, but this one is possibly the most unusual. And I don’t even know that I could confine it to YA. This novel takes the premise of cryogenics and applies it  very convincingly to the story of a teenage boy who has a terminal illness. The resulting story is not only intriguing and believable but poignant and engaging.

When Travis Coates is approached during his terminal illness and invited to become part of a cryogenics research project, he considers his options and decides to gamble. His parents are reluctant and he leaves his much loved girlfriend and best mate but ultimately it is his decision. The professor who persuades him is upfront and honest and suggests that it might be ten years, if at all, before the team can give Travis back his life, in whichever form it may take.

As it turns out, it is only five years and Travis Coates is brought back to life with his head attached to someone else’s body. Not his preferred option – but he can probably get past that. Except, five years on, things have changed and Travis has a lot of re-adjusting to do. His girlfriend is engaged to someone else, his parents have been divorced for the duration of his ‘absence’ and while the pretence of them being together still holds for a while, falls apart creating more angst, his best friend forever – who confessed his homosexuality to Travis before his demise – is apparently involved with a girl…………everything is upside down, wrong side out and just plain difficult. Was his decision worth all this?

I flew interstate last week – and had some difficult emotional circumstances to deal with in doing so – and this was my book of choice for the two hour flight. I was glued to it……….and I’m thinking that says a lot.

Initially one might think the premise far-fetched – yeah, right a frozen head which is then attached to someone else’s body and brought back to life. It’s highly likely that Walt Disney hoped that idea wasn’t so far-fetched!  And clearly, given the amazing scientific advances we read about and hear about each day – perhaps such a thing is not so removed from reality?

This book challenged my thinking about extending life beyond terminal illness. It has been confronting in the aspect of the future and ‘science fiction’ that is upon us. It has made me think about the vast and wonderful but perhaps daunting possibilities of scientific research and actuality.

There is a wealth of philosophical discussion that could arise from a reading of this novel. John Corey Whaley describes himself as “formerly cynical with a renewed sense of wonderment’. I really enjoyed the ‘interview’ with him at the end of the book where he recounts his inspiration from Kurt Vonnegut,

This novel is not dreary – there is so much real humour in it and a real sense of everyday humanity that pervades every line.

I feel I cannot give it the kudos it deserves because it has been swirling around in my head since I read it, but I do hope to have given some sense of it.

Highly recommended for older students – I would suggest your Senior Readers for this one. It is different and it is unforgettable.

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