4.5 13
by John Corey Whaley

View All Available Formats & Editions


Travis Coates has a good head…on someone else’s shoulders. A touching, hilarious, and wholly original coming-of-age story from John Corey Whaley, author of the Printz and Morris Award–winning Where Things Come Back.

Listen—Travis Coates was alive once and then he



Travis Coates has a good head…on someone else’s shoulders. A touching, hilarious, and wholly original coming-of-age story from John Corey Whaley, author of the Printz and Morris Award–winning 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 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 sixteen, but 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, there are going to be a few more scars.

Oh well, you only live twice.

Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Travis Coates, 16, is dying of cancer, so he accepts an offer from a cryogenic group to have his head removed and frozen with the hope that it would be attached to another body in the future and he could be reanimated. Five years later, he "wakes up" with a new body and is still 16. There are a few minor problems with his new life-he is a celebrity/freak and gets more attention than he wants, he has to get used to a body that has different abilities than his old one, and he has to go to school with kids he doesn't know. The biggest problem is that Travis's best friend and his girlfriend are now 21 years old and have moved on with their lives while he feels like he has simply taken a nap. Cate is engaged and not interested in in a relationship with a teenager. Travis is obsessed with the idea that he can win her back and won't accept her repeated "no." He tries various means to convince her that he's still the one for her: some hilarious, some touching, some inappropriate, but all definitely sophomoric. The premise of the story is interesting although far-fetched. The author does a good job of describing the emotions and reactions of all of the characters, but Travis's fixation on Cate becomes tiresome and a plot twist at the end feels like it was thrown in just to make the story longer.—Nancy P. Reeder, Heathwood Hall Episcopal School, Columbia, SC
The New York Times Book Review - A. J. Jacobs
…Whaley's themes…and characterizations are strong. Whenever I finish a novel with a high concept, I do a little test and ask if the book would hold up if the conceit were magically stripped away, if you removed the gimmicks and were left with only the emotional skeleton. Would I still enjoy Harry Potter if it were about a nerdy nonwizard at a regular old boarding school? Probably, because the characters are so wonderfully drawn…As for Noggin? Well, if it had no time-shifting or cryogenics—if it were about a kid who, say, returned to school after a couple of years abroad—I'd still recommend it, thanks to Whaley's prose. But the transplanted head is a fine bonus.
Publishers Weekly
★ 01/20/2014
Like baseball great Ted Williams, Travis Coates has his head surgically removed and cryogenically frozen after he dies (of leukemia at age 16). Unlike Williams, Travis is a fictional character, and five years after his death, technological advances allow doctors to attach his head to a donor body that’s taller and more muscular than the original. Whaley’s second novel (following his Printz-winning Where Things Come Back) is far more concerned with matters of the heart than with how head reattachment surgery would work. Travis awakens to restart where he left off—sophomore year—but everyone he knew has moved on. Best friend Kyle is struggling through college; former girlfriend Cate is engaged to someone else. As only the second cryogenics patient successfully revived, Travis is in uncharted territory; he’s “over” high school, but not ready to be anywhere else. Travis’s comic determination to turn back the hands of time and win Cate’s love is poignant and heartbreaking. His status in limbo will resonate with teens who feel the same frustration at being treated like kids and told to act like adults. Ages 14–up. Agent: Stephen Barr, Writers House. (Apr.)
* "Travis Coates has lost his head—literally.... [A] wonderfully original, character-driven second novel. Whaley has written a tour de force of imagination and empathy, creating a boy for whom past, present, and future come together in an implied invitation to readers to wonder about the very nature of being. A sui generis novel of ideas, Noggin demands much of its readers, but it offers them equally rich rewards."
March/April 2014 Horn Book Magazine
"Readers will find it easy to become invested in Travis’s second coming-of age—brimming with humor, pathos, and angst—and root for him to make peace with his new life."
May 2014 New York Times Book Review
“The premise of John Corey Whaley’s young adult novel “Noggin” – outlandish as it is – has such wonderful resonance. . . . Whaley has a gift for detail. . . . He can be very funny. . . . And, like [John] Green, he can choke you up.”
"A graceful combination of raw heartbreak and biting wit (including plenty of head puns) guides Travis through [his] existential search for life's meaning and survival. . . . While the novel's premise may be straight out of Hollywood, Travis' voice could not be any truer. Fans of John Green will welcome this smart tearjerker."
February 2014 VOYA
"Whaley’s sweet and raunchy first-person narrative provides a thought-provoking look at the notions of self-awareness, the nature of identity, and the angst of a very special teen. The lively, conversational style will engage teen readers in search of an unusual, but relatable, character. At times hilarious and heart-wrenching, Noggin, with its eye-catching cover art, belongs in all library collections serving young adults."
March 2014 School Library Journal
"Travis Coates, 16, is dying of cancer, so he accepts an offer from a cryogenic group to have his head removed and frozen with the hope that it would be attached to another body in the future and he could be reanimated. Five years later, he "wakes up" with a new body and is still 16. . . . The premise of the story is interesting. . . . The author does a good job of describing the emotions and reactions of all of the characters."
Shelf Awareness
* "What is it like to be frozen, à la Ted Williams, never believing you'll really come back—and then you do? That's the preposterous premise of John Corey Whaley's novel, conveyed with realistic emotions that keep his narrator, Travis, grounded, and the story credible—and also highly entertaining—for readers. . . . Whaley makes his hero's implausible situation absolutely convincing. The questions lurking behind Travis's sometimes rash actions plague all teenagers. . . . Ultimately this insightful story explores the challenges of intimate relationships and managing expectations. Whaley asks teens to think about the life they want to make for themselves."
April 2014
"NOGGIN is an incredibly imaginative way to examine the universal feeling of longing to return to the way things use to be…. Far from predictable, NOGGIN contains a few twists to keep readers guessing, but the real heart of the book is the hang up on the past—the feeling that if you could just remind someone you loved how things used to be, old feelings would quickly return. It also focuses on larger issues, like how to deal with the weight of other's expectations, and how to get a friend to be true to themselves. NOGGIN is a novel about trying for a future very different from the one you planned, and learning to be ok with the change. Funny and relatable, fans of Whaley's first novel WHERE THINGS COME BACK won't be disappointed."
June/July 2014 Justine Magazine
"We weren't sure what to expect from this one, but were pleasantly surprised by honest, funny and incredibly likeable Travis. As a walking miracle, he should be grateful, but he struggles with feeling out of step in his own life. Noggin is filled with loving relationships that remind us that even with the kindest people and the best intentions, life is complicated."
Children's Literature - Judy Crowder
Combine teenage angst, medical miracles, young love, death, life, change, and enduring friendship to reach an idea of what the main character in this book is all about. Travis Coates, sixteen (or is it twenty-two?), is the Second Cryogenics Survivor in History. Five years ago he said good bye to everyone gathered around his death bed, had his head cut off, frozen, and then reattached to another teenager’s body, one whose brain was dying but who had a great, healthy body. Travis awakened as if he had dozed off for few minutes. A whole new world? Well…“But instead there I was stuck in this mutated version of my old life where everyone had grown up just enough to forget about me. Or, at the very least, move on to lives I could no longer fit into. My best friend had secrets and my girlfriend had a fiancé. I came back from the dead for this? Joke’s on me.” Travis has to start high school as a sophomore with students he previously knew as little kids. He only wants his girlfriend, Cate, and his best friend, Kyle; but they have moved on with their lives and Travis settles for buddy-ship with a geeky teen named Hatton, who gives him the nickname, “Noggin.” Now, five years since his first death, Travis is that famous “head kid,” whose neck scar everyone wants to see, about whom pundits on TV debate, to whom total strangers write letters, and who is lonely and disoriented in this new-old world. He gets the shock of his life when he discovers that his parents divorced, plus his pride takes a tumble when he now sucks at “Space Invaders,” a “retro” game at the old arcade. Some good news: his new body is a skateboarding whiz. Will he ever reconcile his new existence? To quote Travis, “You only live twice.” Well written, well-recommended! Reviewer: Judy Crowder; Ages 12 up.
VOYA, February 2014 (Vol. 36, No. 6) - Jamie Hansen
Sixteen-year-old Travis Coates, dying of leukemia, agreed have his head removed and cryogenically preserved for future re-animation. Five years later, Travis awakens after having his head reattached to a sixteen-year-old donor body. Instantly a media sensation, Travis must suddenly cope with the loss of five years of his life and the addition of five years to everyone else’s lives. While Travis is stuck repeating his sophomore year in high school, his best friend is now in college and struggling with his sexual identity. Many things have changed, as technology, fashion, and popular culture have left Travis behind. Worst of all, his girlfriend is now getting married to someone else. He even begins to wonder if having been re-animated was a mistake, as he struggles to exist with a new body, new friends, and a new life. The world has moved on; now Travis needs to find the strength to move forward. Whaley’s sweet and raunchy first-person narrative provides a thought-provoking look at the notions of self-awareness, the nature of identity, and the angst of a very special teen. The lively, conversational style will engage teen readers in search of an unusual, but relatable, character. At times hilarious and heart-wrenching, Noggin, with its eye-catching cover art, belongs in all library collections serving young adults. Reviewer: Jamie Hansen; Ages 12 to 18.
Kirkus Reviews
The madcap story of a boy who loses his head and finds it again. In the not-too-distant future, 16-year-old Travis Coates loses his head once—literally—after a deadly bout with cancer left him for dead. His head, cryogenically frozen as part of an experimental process to bring cancer victims back to life using donors, is the only thing that's left of him until he wakes up with it attached to the body of Jeremy Pratt in the Saranson Center for Life Preservation five years later. From there on out, Travis' life gets just as crazy as Whaley's bizarre setup. Lots of changes have taken place in five years, and Travis soon finds himself losing his head again, in the figurative sense. He has to drag his best friend back out of the closet, discovers terrible secrets about his parents, and pursues his old girlfriend, who is now 21 and engaged to another, great guy, to readers' cringe-inducing embarrassment on his behalf. Readers will recognize the Printz winner's trademark lovable characterizations in Travis' newfound BFF Hatton, who dubs him "Noggin" on his first day back at school. They'll also recognize the poignantly rendered reflections on life, love, death and everything in between. Weird? Yes. Great? Not quite, but it's pretty solid. It may be convoluted as hell, but Whaley's signature cadence and mad storytelling skillz are worth every page. A satisfyingly oddball Frankenstein-like tale of connectivity. (Fiction. 14 & up)

Product Details

Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Publication date:
Sold by:
Sales rank:
HL760L (what's this?)
File size:
2 MB
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt


  • Listen—I was alive once and then I wasn’t. Simple as that. Now I’m alive again. The in-between part is still a little fuzzy, but I can tell you that, at some point or another, my head got chopped off and shoved into a freezer in Denver, Colorado.

    You might have done it too. The dying part, I mean. Or the choosing-to-die part, anyway. They say we’re the only species on the planet with the knowledge of our own impending doom. It’s just that some of us feel that doom a lot sooner than expected. Trust me when I tell you that everything can go from fine and dandy to dark and depressing faster than you can say “acute lymphoblastic leukemia.”

    The old me got so sick so fast that no one really had time to do anything but talk about how sick he got and how fast he got that way. And the chemo and the radiation and the bone marrow transplants didn’t do anything but make him sicker faster and with much more ferocity than before.

    They say you can’t die more than once. I would strongly disagree. But this isn’t a story about the old me dying. No one wants to hear about how I told my parents, my best friend, Kyle, and my girlfriend, Cate, that I was choosing to give up. That’s a story I don’t want to tell. What I do want to tell you, though, is a story about how I suddenly found myself waking up in a hospital room with my throat sore, dry and burning, like someone had shoved an entire bag of vinegar-soaked cotton balls down it. I want to tell you about how I was moving my fingers and wiggling my toes and how the doctors and nurses standing around me were so impressed with this. I’m not sure why blinking my eyes earned a round of applause and why it mattered that I was peeing into a bag, but to these people, it was like they were witnessing a true miracle. Some of the nurses were even crying.

    I want to tell you a story about how you can suddenly wake up to find yourself living a life you were never supposed to live. It could happen to you, just like it happened to me, and you could try to get back the life you think you deserve to be living. Just like I did.

    They told me I couldn’t talk, said it was too early to try that just yet. I didn’t know why, but I listened anyway. My mom and dad walked in, and she cried big tears and he went in to touch my face, and the nurse asked him to wait, asked him to please step aside until they were sure everything was working okay.

    They gave me a small white board and a marker and told me to write my name. I did. Travis Ray Coates. They asked me to write down where I live. I did. Kansas City, Missouri. They asked me to write down my school. I did. Springside High. They asked me to write down the year. I did. Then the room got suddenly quiet, and even though it was bright and clean and I could smell medicine and bleach, I knew something was wrong.

    This is when they told me that they’d done it. They’d gone through with the whole cranial hibernation and reanimation thing. They’d actually gone and cut my head off. I was so sure they’d put me under and changed their minds and that I’d gone through all that paperwork for nothing. But then my mom held up a mirror, and I saw that my head was shaved nearly bald and that my neck had bandages wrapped all around it. I looked pretty rough—my lips were purple and cracked, my cheeks were flushed, and my eyes were big and glazed over. Drugged, my eyes were drugged.

    I’m going to tell you the truth here and say that I never, not once, not even for a tiny second, thought this crazy shit would work. And I never thought they did either. My parents, I mean. But I looked up at their wet eyes and felt their hands on my hands, and I knew right then that they were as happy as any two people had ever been. Their dead son lying on a bed in front of them, silent but with a beat in his chest again. Mary Shelley’s nightmare come true, right there in a hospital in Denver.

    Hospitals. I knew hospitals. I knew them like most kids know their own homes, know their neighborhoods, and know which yards to avoid and which ones it’s safe to leave your bike in. I knew a nurse was only allowed to give you extra pain meds if a doctor had signed off on it first but that getting extra Jell-O only took a few smiles and maybe a joke or two, maybe a flash of the dimples. And like a factory, a hospital has its own rhythm, sounds from every room that collide in the air and echo down into your ears and repeat themselves, even in the nighttime, when the world wants so bad to appear silent and quiet and peaceful. Beeps, footsteps, the tearing of plastic, spinning wheels on carts, Wheel of Fortune on the neighbor’s TV. These were the sounds I died to, and these were the ones that welcomed me back. A world so noisy you have to lean up a bit to hear the familiar doctor as he tries to speak over it all, and just as you were starting to get used to the light, you have to close your eyes to hear him. A world that looks almost exactly the same as the one you closed your eyes to before, so much the same that you think about laughing because you got so close to being done with it all. Until you finally hear the doctor as he speaks a little louder this time.

    “Welcome back, Travis Coates.”

  • Meet the Author

    John Corey Whaley grew up in Louisiana. His debut novel, Where Things Come Back, was the 2012 winner of the Michael L. Printz and the William C. Morris Awards. You can learn more about him at and follow him on Twitter: @Corey_Whaley.

    Customer Reviews

    Average Review:

    Write a Review

    and post it to your social network


    Most Helpful Customer Reviews

    See all customer reviews >

    Noggin 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    This is another phenomenal work by John Corey Whaley. I love his writing and I love his stories. He is an exceptional writer and I love how he tells the stories. His voice is such a nice touch to his writing and his characters are so easily loved. Great work!! Loved it.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    This was one of tbe funniest and emotional books i have ever read. Noggin is one of the most amazing books i have ever read. At first i was not so sure (it begins pretty slow) but in the end i was very impressed. I reccomend this to fans of books like if i stay.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I read John Corey Whaley's first novel, Where Things Come Back, and I really liked it so I thought I would read this one. Now, I usually don't enjoy romantic, angsty, teeny-bopper "The Fault in Our Stars" style books, but I actually like Whaley's books because they have good messages for teens, unusual and engaging stories, relatable characters and themes, and are generally not annoying like a lot of other YA novels out there. The story is really funny at times and the characters are just the right amount of flawed. I also mentioned how I'm not into cheesy and emotional stuff, but there were bits that were actually really heart-wrenching because, even though this story is really out there and crazy, you really feel for the main character and his suffering just makes you sad and his idiocy makes you laugh and his best friend makes you happy and it's all just great. I can't put it into words any better than this so just go read it. :)
    eheinlen More than 1 year ago
    The concept for this book was interesting and it was interesting to see how each person dealt with Travis being alive again. However, the ending left you wondering where the rest of the book was as there was no closure.
    Te1 More than 1 year ago
    This was a wonderful story. Don't usually do 'heart warming' however, this book grabbed me from the 1st page.You'll love Travis and can't help but empathize.
    Oliviafar 5 months ago
    I loved this book. The story line was completely original. A boy that had his frozen head attached to another person's body. That got me hooked. The book was funny and I loved the way the author made the book flow.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I read thus book for teen read week at school and to me i luked it but sometimes it was annoying cause travis was too obsessed with cate up to askung her to marry him even tjough she was enaged and he was stuck being a teenager that it got annoying but i luked the ending because he does something back ti cate that she did to him before when he was going ti get hiw head cut off.u Anyway i got to meet the author in person and he talked about his book. The school librarian is an author her name is jessie kirby and she wrote a couple books. Moonglass golden and her newest one calle rhings we kbow by heart so check tjose out. Anyway thy are friends so oir school got to meet him. And overall i reaally liked the book
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I thought this book was going to be horrible, but it was amazing.... I couldn't put it down till the very end.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Another amazing read by the author I love the intelligence and insight of the characters
    Carnitas_Fever More than 1 year ago
    I think this is such a fun concept for a book.  A boy with cancer (I know, a lot of that going around) is terminal.  The only way to save him is to remove his head and save it for the future, when it may be reattached to a new body. It only took 5 years for technology to catch up to the doctor's ideas, and our young hero is returned to a new healthy body.   The fun of the story comes with the boy being the same 16 year old has when he left.  The problem is that everyone else has aged 5 years.  His best fiend is in college.  His girlfriend is engaged to be married to someone else. This is not a science fiction book.  There is not even an explanation of how the surgery was done, or very many doctors in the book at all.  Mostly a fish-out-of-water story, taking a new twist on the problem of a patient waking up from a coma, and realizing the world continued to change while he was asleep.  This is a fun story, and worth the read.
    Lisa-LostInLiterature More than 1 year ago
    I went into this book without reading the synopsis. A friend of mine had recommended it, so when I was offered the audiobook for review I thought, “why not?”. Noggin was… well, pretty weird, honestly. The whole idea of it was a bit much. When I first started listening I was completely confused. A head transplant? So this kid gets sick and is dying… so they chop off his head, freeze it, and 5 years later end up attaching it to another teenager’s body? Hmm… a little farfetched for someone like me that has trouble with certain science fiction stories anyway. But since I had received this book for review, I continued on, trying my best to keep an open mind. The story actually completely changed by the second and third chapters. The head transplant was completed, and the story began. It actually turned out to be a very sweet story. I really started to feel for Travis. He was still sixteen, yet everyone and everything else in his life had aged 5 years while he was frozen. His girlfriend had moved on, now engaged to be married. His young cousins were grown up. His whole life as he had known it was completely different. (In a strange way, this story kind of reminded me a bit of Taken. The whole dealing-with-life-aging-while-you’re-not-there thing.) The romance, friendships, and family ties throughout this story was very refreshing. So often we see parents that are non-existent or not approving of their children’s choices and lives. It was really nice to see Travis’ parents so involved in his life, in making him better, and in helping him accept his new life. Overall, a cute story, though slightly out-there are times, that was entertaining and fun.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    It was ok