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John Corey Whaley
ISBN 9781442458727
Atheneum/S&S, 2014.
5 stars
Keywords: cancer change friendship john-corey-whaley noggin romance school second-chances

by John Corey Whaley

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 (Where Things Come Back) novel, conveyed with realistic emotions that keep his narrator, Travis, grounded, and the story credible--and also highly entertaining--for readers.

Life has gone on without Travis, whose body was invaded by acute lymphoblastic leukemia, and who was offered an opportunity to have his head cryogenically frozen. With nothing to lose, Travis agrees, and "comes to" with his healthy head transplanted onto a healthy body. Travis has been "away" for only five years, yet the social and emotional divide between 16 and 21 is vast. Travis had expected to come back in the far future ("Where were the jetpacks?" he wonders). Instead, the girl he loves is engaged to someone else, and his best friend has gone back in the closet. The only refreshing new addition to his life is Hatton, whom he meets on his first day back to school and who calls out "Noggin!" The two become fast friends.

Whaley makes his hero's implausible situation absolutely convincing. The questions lurking behind Travis's sometimes rash actions plague all teenagers. What happens when, in a friendship, the two parties grow at different rates? Is there enough there to salvage? Can you teach yourself to expect less? 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.

This review first appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers.
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