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Science Fiction & Contemporary Combined | Book Review: Noggin by John Corey Whaley

You’ll lose your head over Noggin by John Corey Whaley. (Puns aren’t my strong suit…).

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noggin by john corey whaley book review

Title & Author: Noggin by John Corey Whaley

Genre: Young Adult – Science Fiction, Contemporary

Release Date: April 8, 2014

Series: Standalone

Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers

How I Got the Book: Copy from the publisher


“Listen — Travis Coates was alive once and then he wasn’t.

Now he’s alive again.

Simple as that.

The in between part is still a little fuzzy, but he can tell you that, at some point or another, his head got chopped off and shoved into a freezer in Denver, Colorado. Five years later, it was reattached to some other guy’s body, and well, here he is. Despite all logic, he’s still 16 and everything and everyone around him has changed. That includes his bedroom, his parents, his best friend, and his girlfriend. Or maybe she’s not his girlfriend anymore? That’s a bit fuzzy too.

Looks like if the new Travis and the old Travis are ever going to find a way to exist together, then there are going to be a few more scars.

Oh well, you only live twice.”

Good Head on Your Shoulders, And Other Head Puns

Travis is an anomaly. Travis is confused. Travis just woke up the day after he underwent exploratory surgery where his head was removed and put on someone else’s body. Only, it isn’t the next day. It’s been 5 years.

Noggin is one of those books that sounds so weird. Like, too weird to get into. But, I promise you it isn’t. Other than the fact that Travis has this pioneer surgery (which only happens because he’s dying of cancer and opts to cryogenically freeze his head), the book reads like contemporary YA.

I love the author’s approach to the story. Travis is dealing with some really heavy things – like a new body and a new life. His friends are in college, his parents are protective and his girlfriend…isn’t his girlfriend anymore.

Whaley really takes readers there, if you know what I mean. Travis has to deal with so much. Like, figuring out if waking up was really a great idea, considering the trouble that unfolds in his wake.

To counterbalance that heaviness, Noggin takes a light-hearted approach. There are a TON of head jokes and puns. In fact, Travis meets a new friend in high school because the other boy called him “Noggin.”

There’s definitely a dark sense of humor, but it’s the only way Travis (and readers) can power through the difficult times.

Considering this book deals with cancer and uses a offkey sense of humor, it did remind me of The Fault in Our Stars. That’s not to say this book was TRYING to be TFioS, but the feel in general was similar.

That comparison is unfair to any other book ever, so I won’t even go there.

One Note

Maybe it was because there was so much going on and so much to explain, but I thought Noggin could have covered a bit more ground in Travis’ life. It really stays very close to after his wake-up and the subsequent fall out. Not much is shown time-wise after his rebirth, so to speak. I just wanted to read more, I think, and not retread the same ground.

However, I did love the slow reveal of the things in Travis’ life that were so much different than before. It’s not all laid down immediately, and it was nice to be surprised by how things turned out.

I loved the all Travis’ friendships. They offered much-needed heartwarming throughout the book.


The initial premise may make you second guess this choice, but I encourage you to pick up this book. It’ll break your heart and make you laugh out loud and it most certainly will be a book that sticks with you. Noggin is a book that’s head and shoulders above the rest (it’s the best I could do).

About Lisa Parkin

I'm a hardcore lover of young adult fiction and have been reviewing books since 2011. Other interests include Downton Abbey, heat lightning storms, Harry Potter land and (begrudingly) one orange tabby.