A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
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.
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?
- Author: David Arnold
- Genre: Contemporary Fiction
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, High School
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Viking
- Publication date: May 22, 2018
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 17
- Number of pages: 432
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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