The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotik

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotik Book Poster Image
Angsty, quirky teen's compelling search for meaning.

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age 14+
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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Teen fiction meant to entertain.

Positive Messages

The value of friendship and loyalty; how friends and loved ones can save you, and need you to save them, too. Examines how we cope with change, both within ourselves and in the world. By carefully examining what's different and what's the same, you can come to a deeper understanding of yourself, your place in the world, and what choices are open to you. Forgive; don't hold on to grudges -- they'll end up consuming you. You can still love something even after you learn that it's flawed, just in a different, wiser way. There's value in the in-between, empty spaces; you don't need to constantly try to fill every moment or everything you do with meaning or activity. Instead, step back and appreciate the space.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Noah models strong bonds of friendship with Alan and his twin sister, Val. Alan is gay and came out as a teen. He was bullied and ostracized for it by schoolmates, and occasionally is still verbally bullied, and he doesn't let it get him down because he knows the bully isn't worth his time or energy. Alan and Val, who are half-Puerto Rican, model strong family bonds that maintain cultural identity without being defined by it. Noah's also close to his parents and younger sister, Penny, but he eventually sees that he can be a better friend and family member to all of them.

Violence

An uncle uses bullying behavior like giving noogies and wedgies. Noah acknowledges the urge to punch people occasionally but doesn't act on it. A teen ends up in a coma after an accident swimming while intoxicated. Some verbal bullying that implies there's something wrong with being gay.

Sex

Teens talk about sex and use sexual innuendo, but only scenes of teens making out at a party and hearing loud sex noises at the party are directly narrated. "Orgasm" is used in simile and metaphor, such as "a rainbow having an orgasm" to describe something colorful. Masturbation is hinted at or mentioned a few times, such as gesturing to mimic "jerking off." Mention of a Kardashian sex tape. Early memory of learning that sex is "more than just naked kissing." Noah's celibacy by choice is mentioned a few times. Asking did you "pop your cherry."

Language

"F--k," "s--t," "bulls--t," "ball sack," "douche" and many made-up words combined with it, "d--khead" and other combinations using "d--k,"  "WTF," "t-tty twisters," "pissant," "wiener," "turd," a student movie called "Vagina Dialogues," "ass" (body part). Occasional sexual innuendo.

Consumerism

Lots of food, snack, beverage, alcohol, car, pop culture, tech, and clothing products establish character, place, or mood. Narrator Noah is a huge David Bowie fan and several songs and albums are mentioned as touchstones.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A teen has a daiquiri at home by the pool. Noah plans to get very drunk at a party as a way to survive it. He drinks five Mixx Tail Hurricanes and some Scotch; consequences are delayed over a long stretch of the story. Once he drinks whiskey on the way to school. Adults drink beer, bourbon, wine. Noah uses a fake ID to get into a bar but doesn't drink there. A teen goes into a coma after hitting his head swimming while intoxicated. A story about the past mentions being high all the time on weed, meth, and heroin, becoming a junkie, and eventually getting clean. Mention that Telazol is given to a lab rat. Noah had his first and only cigarette when he was 8. A couple of minor characters noted smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotik is the third book by popular YA author David Arnold (Mosquitoland). Narrated by Noah, who's 16 and whose real last name is Oakman, it explores his mind, emotions, and relationships after he's hypnotized and finds a lot of strange details about his life have been turned upside down. It'll best be enjoyed by aspiring writers and angsty existentialists who enjoy a little "what-if" and surrealism on the side. Profanity includes "f--k," "s--t," and lots of variations and combinations involving "douche" and "d--k." Sexual content is infrequent but mentions making out and hearing loud sex noises at a party. Teens use a lot of sexual innuendo and hint at masturbation a few times. Noah's best friend Alan is gay, and being shunned in the past and occasional verbal bullying are mentioned. Mild violence includes bullying by giving noogies and wedgies, being sexually suggestive, and a teen who ends up in a coma after hitting his head swimming while very drunk. Privileged characters in an affluent suburb are all white except Noah's best friends, twins who are half-Puerto Rican. Messages are positive about the value of friendship and family, and about coping with change within yourself and in the world around you.

User Reviews

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Teen, 16 years old Written byNoaahh August 19, 2018

Unique

This book was unlike anything I’ve read. I really enjoyed it, because I could somewhat relate to the main character. The plot was amazing and the ending surpris... Continue reading

What's the story?

THE STRANGE FASCINATIONS OF NOAH HYPNOTIK are a time-lapse video, an old man with a goiter, his favorite author, and a mysterious photograph dropped in haste. Noah doesn't know why he's so fascinated by them, but he is, and the more he thinks about them, the more distant he becomes to family and friends. One night at a party he gets very drunk, behaves terribly to his best friends, and wakes up the next morning with a hangover and a strong suspicion that he's been hypnotized. Odd, subtle things about everything and everyone he's known are suddenly different, like how his ancient dog, Fluff, is now spry and energetic, or how his friend's Marvel Comics collection is now all-DC and apparently always has been. The only things that haven't changed are the four fascinations. Why didn't they change? Do they have something in common? If Noah can find the pattern, maybe he can figure out how to get things back to how they should be.

Is it any good?

David Arnold's strong writing elevates a story about a bleak, angst-filled teen into something much bigger, and much more compelling, than you'd expect. The quirky, relatable, often funny trio of friends in The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotik draw the reader into their friendship's ups and downs. At the same time, Arnold deftly weaves together elements of existentialism, speculative fiction, and surrealism into a dense fabric that sways to David Bowie's many beats. It's dense, and it'll best be enjoyed by teens who love reading and writing, thinking deeply, and wondering what it all means.

Some readers may be frustrated by the storytelling cliché that masquerades as the "twist" near the end. But by then they'll likely be invested enough in the compelling characters, and hopefully appreciative of the otherwise strong writing by a very talented author, to hang in there with Noah all the way to the satisfying end.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about role models in The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotik. Which characters do you admire? What are there strengths and weaknesses? Are they realistic?

  • Author David Arnold says the book is about change. How does Noah's story explore that? Does Noah's story affect the way you feel about changes in yourself and your life? How?

  • If you had a chance to do something over, or relive a certain time in your life, would you? What would you do differently? Why? If you don't get a second chance, is there anything you can do now to make things better, or a different way you could handle things in the future?

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