Book Review: Noggin by John Corey Whaley

If I could tell you only one thing about Noggin by John Corey Whaley, it would be this: YOU MUST READ THIS BOOK.

But since that’s not the only thing I can tell you, I should also mention that Noggin is funny, smart, irreverent, thoughtful, thought-provoking, and absolutely crazy, insane, and just perfect.

nogginListen — 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.

Noggin has everything I look for in a book: it is funny, but also sad. Unique, yet offers a refreshing perspective on universal experiences. Beautifully written and it sticks with you long after finishing the last page. Noggin bears all the earmarks of a beloved coming of age story, while still remaining wholly unique.

Whaley’s insightful and casual writing lends the story the perfect tone, delicately balancing the absurd with the emotional. Noggin rings with nostalgia, as Travis reflects longingly on the life he left behind five years earlier — while also illustrating the importance of accepting what is, and moving forward, rather than living in the past.

It’s this theme, more than anything else, I think, that sets Noggin apart. Because these feelings, and the challenge of moving forward rather than living in the past, are not something unique to Travis and his situation. This is something everyone experiences throughout their lives not just as teenagers, but continuously throughout adulthood, as well. We all have those moments when we look fondly back on the past and long for those days, which often seem far better than they probably, actually were.

And Noggin perfectly captures this struggle: the struggle to look back fondly, while moving on — and finding peace and joy and happiness in the path ahead.

Noggin is in stores tomorrow.

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