An often hilarious and always relevant memoir about one teen boy's battle with brain cancer and his Starlight Children's Foundation wish: to meet Mikhail Gorbachev in Russia and plead for nuclear disarmament and world peace.
It's 1986, and Jeff is an average fifteen-year-old: he thinks a lot about dating, he bounces around with his friends, and he's trying his hardest to get a car. Conversely, the world around him feels crazy: the United States and the Soviet Union are at glaring odds, with their leaders in a standoff, and that awful word, "nuclear," is on everyone's mind. Then, boom--Jeff learns that he has brain cancer and it's likely terminal. Well, that puts a damper on his summer plans and romantic prospects, doesn't it?
Jeff's family rallies around him, but they are fiercely complicated--especially Jeff's father, a man who can't say "I love you" even during the worst of Jeff's treatment. So when the Starlight Children's Foundation offers to grant Jeff a wish, he makes one certain to earn his father's respect: he asks to travel to Moscow and meet with Mikhail Gorbachev to discuss nuclear disarmament and ending the Cold War. Nothing like achieving world peace to impress a distant father, right? Jeff has always been one to aim high.
Jeff's story is dark, but it's also funny, romantic, and surprising. As his life swings from incredibly ordinary to absolutely incredible, he grapples with the big questions of mortality, war, love, hope, and miracles.
"A sweet but unsentimental account of a truly fascinating nuclear childhood. Henigson had me at 'Gorbachev.'" --Gary Shteyngart, New York Times bestselling author of Little Failure and Lake Success
"It's a tale well-told--always gripping, often heartbreaking, and ultimately uplifting." --Booklist
About the Author
Jeff Henigson grew up in South Pasadena, California. After a teenage battle with brain cancer, he attended university at the London School of Economics and graduate school at Columbia University's School of International and Political Affairs. He has worked for UNICEF and the United Nations in humanitarian emergencies, and for a nonprofit in human rights. He has lived in London, Seoul, Rome, Beijing, New York, St. Petersburg (Russia, not Florida), and Ko Samui, a beautiful island in the Gulf of Thailand. Today he calls Seattle home. You can find him paddling on Lake Washington or, alternatively, on Twitter at @jeffhenigson or on his website at jeffhenigson.com. His memoir Warhead is his debut work.
“A sweet but unsentimental account of a truly fascinating nuclear childhood. Henigson had me at ‘Gorbachev.’” —Gary Shteyngart, New York Times bestselling author of Little Failure and Lake Success
“An inspiring story of a teen fighting to save his life while also trying to save the world. Touching, vivid, full of humor and heart, Warhead shows what is possible when we refuse to accept a diagnosis of despair.” —David Ebershoff, bestselling author of The Danish Girl and The 19th Wife
“Jeff Henigson’s incredible true story is both global and personal. Warhead is about the battle all teenagers face as they struggle to carve a place for themselves in a world they did not create—but one that desperately needs them.” —Maya Van Wagenen, author of Popular
"Readers will root for him...even as Jeff navigates hormonal impulses, a thrilling trip to Moscow, and the looming threat of cancer, we are anchored by the deep affection for his mother and desperate yearning for fatherly love. It’s a tale well-told—always gripping, often heartbreaking, and ultimately uplifting. A useful story about navigating matters of the heart in times of personal—and global—crisis." —Booklist