By Stephan Lee
June 13, 2013 at 06:15 PM EDT


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Where Things Come Back author John Corey Whaley, who won the Michael L. Printz Prize for Excellence in Young-Adult Literature in 2012, will come back in April 2014 with his completely different follow-up novel, Noggin. Here’s the official, very intriguing plot summary of Noggin; plus, read a quick Q&A with Whaley:

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 he 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 16 and 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, then there are going to be a few more scars.

Oh well, you only live twice.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: The concept of this novel is so cool — and unusual. Where did you get the idea?

JOHN COREY WHALEY: The initial idea was sort of an accident. I was working on another book at the time and the idea of having this absurd frozen-head/new body scenario just popped into mind. I can’t explain where, exactly, it came from, but I’d been wanting to write something realistic, but with an absurd premise, and once I had this idea, I knew it was possible.

Boys are sometimes talked about as a harder-to-reach audience in the YA/young readers world. Do you think the gross-out nature of the initial concept will appeal to the young guys in particular?

Well, I hope the gross-out nature will appeal to boys and girls, but I can definitely see where this story would appeal to boys — not only because of the concept (and its many uncomfortable physical issues) but because of the journey the main character, Travis, goes through to try and put his young life back together the way he thinks it should be.

How did it feel winning the 2012 Printz prize? Did it put any pressure on this novel?

It was nothing short of life-changing, really. And, pressure? What pressure? I only kid. Yeah, approaching my second novel was, admittedly, a bit of a struggle. But having an amazing team at Atheneum Books, especially my very patient, brilliant editor Namrata Tripathi, took a stressful situation and turned it into a really great learning experience for me. Now that I’m through the second book and can say that it’s another one I’m really proud of, I feel like I can relax a little.

What books are you obsessed with right now?

I’m completely obsessed with Andrew Smith’s Winger. A great, hilarious, and moving story. Also, Counting by Sevens, a middle-grade novel by Holly Goldberg Sloan that comes out this August. It’s beautiful and I can’t stop thinking about it. Other great books I’ve read recently are Rapture Practice by Aaron Hartzler and Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets by Evan Roskos.

TV shows?

I’m a huge Game of Thrones fan. I can’t believe I have to wait almost a year to see more of it. I love The Killing, The Regular Show, House of Cards, Arrested Development, etc.


I’m in love with The Kings of Summer. I saw it recently and I can’t stop thinking about it — just the perfect coming-of-age, darkly funny film with amazing performances and writing.


I’m really loving the new Vampire Weekend album. It’s the perfect summer soundtrack, I think. I’ve also been listening to Tegan and Sara, Jake Bugg, and Fossil Collective a lot recently.

Follow @EWStephanLee on Twitter.

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