Hilarious, real, compelling. Noggin by John Corey Whaley is a fresh new take on the cliché woke-up-in-the-hospital-with-amnesia trope spun into a breathtaking new tale.  

Travis Coates was dying at sixteen when he decided to cyrogenically freeze his head in the hope that some time in the future, doctors and scientists could bring him back to life. Five years later, Travis wakes up in the hospital with his head attached to someone else’s body. And having some athletic guy’s biceps is the least of his problems; the best friend that came out as gay to him before he died now has a girlfriend, Travis’s own girlfriend is engaged and Travis is almost certain his dad is cheating on his mom.

As I’ve mentioned before, this plot line closely resembles the common amnesia plot line with a whole new side to it as Travis had to get used to having an entire body that didn’t belong to him. There were many parts of this book that I loved: Travis’s relationship with his mom is the sweetest parent-child relationship I’ve read in a YA novel, Travis and Kyle’s friendship, (small spoiler here) Travis finally meeting the family of his body’s donor (spoiler over). There was one major aspect of the story, though, that got on my nerves. Travis’s girlfriend is engaged, and many, many times Travis makes advances on her despite her having clearly said she doesn’t want him.

While it’s reasonable that he’s grieving for his lost life and wants her back, he’s old enough to understand what no means, and that what he’s asking her to do is wrong. Furthermore, the story makes him out to be the victim, and his girlfriend the one that’s making life hard for him. I personally think she was too nice to him and should’ve shut him down less kindly than she did.

Despite this major plot that irritated me to no end, this book is hilarious. The dialogue is 100 percent real and teen-like (a bit too crude for me at times) and the characters are strong and flawed. My favorite parts of the story were the heartbreaking ones when Travis flashes back to the days before he died. I also really loved how hard everything was for him. The author took all the problems of being a teenager, stacked them on top of all the problems of having lost five years of your life, and sprinkled some additional problems on top of all that. None of the story felt forced, and I enjoyed every bit that didn’t have to do with his obsession over his ex-girlfriend. I would recommend it, but for older readers only.