A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Teen fiction meant to entertain.
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
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 & Scariness
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.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
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."
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"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.
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Products & Purchases
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.
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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.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.