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posted: 7/13/2014 6:00 AM

Life after five-year 'death' a bit confusing for teen

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  • "Noggin" by John Corey Whaley (2014, Atheneum Books for Young Readers), $17.99, 352 pages.

    "Noggin" by John Corey Whaley (2014, Atheneum Books for Young Readers), $17.99, 352 pages.

  • John Corey Whaley

    John Corey Whaley

By Terri Schlichenmeyer

People in love do goofy things.

They dance and sing in videos seen by millions. They fill classrooms with balloons, pay skywriters to put messages in the clouds, they even hire orchestras to accompany their professions of undying amour.

You've probably done some wild things in the name of love, too, but one boy wins the contest. In the new book "Noggin" by John Corey Whaley, Travis lost his head.

Five years ago, Travis Coates was dying.

He hadn't been sick for very long, but the cancer was aggressive. The usual treatments weren't working and while chemo and radiation weren't painful, saying goodbye to his parents, his girlfriend Cate and his best friend Kyle hurt a lot. It really sucked -- so when the Saranson Center for Life Preservation came up with a solution to his death, Travis was intrigued.

The field of cryonics was growing, he was told, and it was possible that, if he'd give up his life (and his head) just a little early, there was a chance of coming back from the dead later on, maybe in a few years.

So there he was, Travis-not-quite-Travis, five years later -- though it felt like just three weeks. He was still 16, technically speaking, but he was also 21 years old, kind of. It was all made possible because his body wasn't originally his; it once belonged to a boy named Jeremy Pratt who died of brain cancer, and that took some serious getting used to. So did being bigger and physically fitter. It was weird.

But, body aside, Travis was the same guy he was before his death: same sense of humor, same taste in movies. Everything else, though, had changed: Kyle, who'd once confessed to Travis that he was gay, was dating girls and Cate was engaged to someone else.

Had Kyle lived with lies the whole time Travis was dead? And what happened to the "us" that Travis had with Cate? They loved each other. He promised her that he'd return and she said she'd wait! She. Could. Not. Marry. Someone. Else. How could they not go back to the way things were before?

Sometimes, it's hard to let go, whether it's a friendship, car, habit or love. And you won't be able to let go of "Noggin," either.

Just thinking about living with someone else's body attached to your head is a little icky, but author John Corey Whaley makes it seem … normal. It helps that Travis, Whaley's main character, is not totally freaked out by what's happened to him; instead, he's more focused on getting his Cate back. The emotions Travis feels are exactly perfect -- just what you'd expect if you'd awakened from the dead to find everything changed -- and his friends are well-portrayed as the voices of reason in Travis' schemes. Best of all, this novel will keep you guessing, which makes it excellent for readers 13 and up. If you're looking for something great to read, "Noggin" will leave you head over heels.

Terri Schlichenmeyer has been reading since she was 3 years old and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives in Wisconsin with two dogs and 12,000 books.