Wednesday 6 August 2014

Noggin, John Corey Whaley

Pages: 340
Publisher: S&S
Release Date: 31st July 2014
Edition: UK paperback, review copy

Other Titles by this Author: Where Things Come Back

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 Travis can tell you that, at some point or another, his head got chopped off and shoved into a freezer. Five years later, it was reattached to some other guy’s body and, well, here he is.

Despite all logic, he’s still sixteen and everything and everyone around him has changed. That includes his parents, his best friend and his girlfriend. Or maybe she’s not his girlfriend anymore? That’s a bit fuzzy too. If the new Travis and the old Travis are ever going to find a way to exist together, it looks like there’s going to be a few more scars.

Oh well, you only live twice.

I was excited to read Noggin from the moment I heard about. It has a premise I’ve never come across before, the blurb promises a wonderful style and the reviews are glowing; but I just can’t decide if I liked it or not.

Whaley takes strange sci-fi ideas – cryogenics and head transplantation – and uses them to craft a story that is pure coming of age contemporary fiction. He manages to explore the intricacies of identity, love and moving on with heart, humour and wittiness, and yet I still didn’t connect with it.

I have to admit that I didn’t warm to Travis at all. I know that he’s been through a lot - he did die – but he’s just so selfish and whiney and arrogant. Which, I guess, is what lots of sixteen-year-old boys brought back from the dead after dying of cancer would be, but still. I had no point of understanding or empathy with him and I struggled to get through the novel sometimes, even with the lovely style of writing that Whaley has. Travis just made me cringe. This was expecially the case in his efforts to get back the now 21-year-old girlfriend he had when he died. Everything seemed childish and desperate and made me want to hide behind a cushion; I’m really not good with cringey-ness. It put me off him entirely.

Noggin is sharp, witty, observant and so very strange. Some people will fall in love with it, and others, like me, may be a little on the fence, but it definitely won’t be forgotten by anybody.


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