This is a review by a finalist judge, so will focus solely on summary and leave out most additional editorializing and discussion. We hope you pick up this Cybil nominee, read, and enjoy!
It would be really cool if I weren't this person who STILL - after aphorisms and everything - judges books by their covers. It's like I can't stop. Yadda, yadda, yadda, homo sapiens are a visual species - blah, blah, whatever. As many indie books as I read, with sometimes just awful covers done by unpaid non-professionals hacking away with stock images and Photoshop, I know sometimes you find the most AMAZING things in dubious packages. I. KNOW. THIS. But, truthfully? I think I skew towards rooting for the underdog. I'm ... like, okay with ugly covers on science fiction and indies, because... look, it's science fiction and indies. Somehow, covers that are pastel and bright, glossy, on-trend high concept things like, oh, headless-torsos or leg shots of couples in Chuck-Taylors-and-cute-flats - those turn me RIGHT off. And seeing this cover - part of a trend Book Riot already mentioned - I was like, "Meh." Because I'm nothing if not all hip and contrarian and anti-trend.
Which is just bull, right? Because, really? I've read nothing by this guy, and I'm ready to blow him off because of a cover? How can I even call myself a story girl with an attitude like that? SHAME. I'm feelin' it. Readers, don't make my mistakes. Pick up books with goofy covers. There are stories inside.
Summary: Travis Coates is like the best science experiment you could bring to class. He died - painfully and awfully - of leukemia, and then, boom, he was alive again. It wasn't difficult to decide to take part in the one-in-a-million-chance, risky procedure the Saranson Center for the Preservation of Life offered. His body was done for, he could see that his friends and loved ones were suffering through his suffering, so -- so, he let go. Of everything, all of it. On an appointed day, he said goodbye to his beloved best friend and his family. A cocktail of drugs was administered so that his brain function shut down, and then his head - the only cancer-free part of his body left - was removed and cryogenically preserved somewhere in Denver. A heartbeat and ---
-- Travis opened his eyes to a world where time had lapsed the length of a nap for him, but five years had passed for everyone else.
And then things got weird.
Still sixteen, though his birth certificate says he's twenty, Travis is finding it hard to exist in the world where he feels the same, but nothing else is. See, in this world, his girlfriend is engaged - to someone else - his best friend is pretending that the truth he'd told Travis when they'd said goodbye is something that can be ignored, and people all across the world either want to stare at him, touch him, tell him to repent, or beg him to help them be reborn. He so longs for his old life back - his old friends, his old clothes, his old possessions, his old loves. Is there room for anything new? Is it okay to make new friends? Is it possible to live the hell out of the do-over he's gotten out of life? Maybe... but that's a whole lot to process for a guy who's continuing to look down at the hands in front of him -- and keep realizing that they're not his. Is there any way to step into the same spot in the river of time? Travis is willing to splash around, hope, and get soaked.
Conclusion: A surprising second finalist touching on the theme of cryogenics in the speculative fiction/science fantasy genre, John Corey Whaley's use of voice and characterization make this novel a memorable, sometimes disturbing, sometimes painfully poignant, and often funny as hell rewind into the life of a guy and his head.
I received my copy of this book courtesy of the Benicia Public Library. You can find NOGGIN by John Corey Whaley at an online e-tailer, or at a real life, independent bookstore near you!
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