Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers on 8 April 2014
Source: ARC from friend
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.
There were a lot of things I really enjoyed about Noggin. The premise is weird, but, for me, believable. Travis wakes up five years in the future, but, for him, it seems like no time has passed. All the weirdness felt authentic. That is the way it feels when you come back home after you’ve been away, like you don’t fit into your old life anymore. It is something that I think a lot of readers can relate to, even if they never miss five years while frozen. It also allowed for some thoughtful discussion on what it means to grow up and get over the past.
I loved most of the characters, especially Travis’s parents, who had dealt with their grief, only to learn that Travis would return. It was moving to watch not only Travis, but also the people in his life, deal with his return. It is a complicated situation and Whaley does complicated, realistic relationships very well. However, it took so long for Travis to realize what was going on with his parents that it felt like he never dealt with it.
Not dealing with things is something Travis is great at. Most of the book seemed to focus on Travis’s obsession with his ex-girlfriend, Cate. It’s been five years and she is older and engaged. Travis tries to rekindle their romance, only to be rejected. He tries again and again, even though Cate tells him that she loves her fiance, even though she consistently rejects him, even though everyone in his life cautions him against it. It felt like too much even for a desperate 16 year old. It was painful to read about, but more than that, it wasn’t interesting. I just felt like the same thing was happening over and over again. The end View Spoiler » left it at a point where Travis tells Cate he will never stop pursuing her. Maybe I’m just the wrong person for an open ending, but it made me question why I read the book in the first place since Travis didn’t change and had begun to bore me by that point. « Hide Spoiler
Favorite moments: Travis finds an urn full of his ashes in a closet–heartbreaking and hilarious at the same time. Also, any scene with Hatton, Travis’s new, post-frozen friend. This kid was funny and awkward and I’m glad Travis became friends with him. To give you an idea, when Travis first returns to school, Hatton tries to start a chant of Noggin that doesn’t catch on (awkward) but that Travis appreciates because it annoys his least favorite teacher.
WTF moment: At one point, Travis freaks out and his ex, who is not a doctor, tells him he just had a panic attack, and then it is never mentioned again. It just felt weird and out of place and it bugged me that it wasn’t addressed because it is a big deal to have panic attacks. Plus, because it was never dealt with, it added to my overall feeling that there was no story arc or growth.
Overall: A unique premise that will make you think about what it means to grow up and move on. For me, I couldn’t love it because the story grew repetitive and the ending left me frustrated.