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The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotik
Cover of The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotik
The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotik
"As he did in his fantastic debut Mosquitoland, David Arnold again shows a knack for getting into the mind of an eccentric teenager in clever, poignant fashion." —USA Today

This is Noah Oakman → sixteen, Bowie believer, concise historian, disillusioned swimmer, son, brother, friend.

Then Noah → gets hypnotized.

Now Noah → sees changes: his mother has a scar on her face that wasn't there before; his old dog, who once walked with a limp, is suddenly lithe; his best friend, a lifelong DC Comics disciple, now rotates in the Marvel universe. Subtle behaviors, bits of history, plans for the future—everything in Noah's world has been rewritten. Everything except his Strange Fascinations . . .
A stunning surrealist portrait, The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotik is a story about all the ways we hurt our friends without knowing it, and all the ways they stick around to save us.
"As he did in his fantastic debut Mosquitoland, David Arnold again shows a knack for getting into the mind of an eccentric teenager in clever, poignant fashion." —USA Today

This is Noah Oakman → sixteen, Bowie believer, concise historian, disillusioned swimmer, son, brother, friend.

Then Noah → gets hypnotized.

Now Noah → sees changes: his mother has a scar on her face that wasn't there before; his old dog, who once walked with a limp, is suddenly lithe; his best friend, a lifelong DC Comics disciple, now rotates in the Marvel universe. Subtle behaviors, bits of history, plans for the future—everything in Noah's world has been rewritten. Everything except his Strange Fascinations . . .
A stunning surrealist portrait, The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotik is a story about all the ways we hurt our friends without knowing it, and all the ways they stick around to save us.
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  • Library copies:
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Levels-
  • ATOS:
  • Lexile:
    880
  • Interest Level:
  • Text Difficulty:
    4 - 5

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Excerpts-
  • From the book Chapter 1
    that sadness feels heavier underwater

    I'll hold my breath and tell you what I mean: I first discov­ered the Fading Girl two months and two days ago, soon after summer began dripping its smugly sunny smile all over the place. I was with Alan, per usual. We had fallen down the YouTube rabbit hole, which was a thing we did from time to time. Generally speaking, I hate YouTube, mostly because Alan is all, I just have to show you this one thing, yo, but in­evitably one thing becomes seventeen things, and before I know it, I'm watching a sea otter operate a vending machine, thinking, Where the fuck did I go wrong? And look: I am not immune to the allure of the sea otter, but at a certain point a guy has to wonder about all the life decisions he's made that have landed him on a couch, watching a glorified weasel press H9 for a bag of SunChips.

    Quiet, and a little sad, but in a real way, drifting through the Rosa-Haas pool—I fucking love it here.

    I would live here.

    For the sake of precision: the Fading Girl video is a rapid time-lapse compilation of photographs clocking in at just over twelve minutes. It's entitled One Face, Forty Years: An Examination of the Aging Process, and underneath it a cap­tion reads: "Daily self-portraits from 1977 to 2015. I got tired." (I love that last part, as if the Fading Girl felt the need to explain why she hadn't quite made it the full forty years.) In the beginning, she's probably in her early twenties, with blonde hair, long and shimmery, and bright eyes like a sun­rise through a waterfall. At about the halfway mark the room changes, which I can only assume means she moved, but in the background, her possessions remain the same: a framed watercolor of mountains, a porcelain Chewbacca figurine, and elephants everywhere. Statues, posters, T-shirts—the Fading Girl had an elephant obsession, safe to say. She's al­ways indoors, always alone, and—other than the move, and a variety of haircuts—she looks the same in every photo: no smile, staring straight into the camera, every day for forty years.

    Always the same, until: changes.

    Okay, I have to breathe now.

    I love this moment: breaking the surface, inhale, wet hair in the hot sun.

    Alan is all, "Dude."

    The moment would be better alone, to be honest.

    "That was like a record," says Val. "You okay?"

    A few more deep breaths, a quick smile, and . . .

    I love this moment even more: dipping beneath the sur­face. Something about being underwater allows me to feel at a higher capacity—the silence and weightlessness, I think.

    It's my favorite thing about swimming.

    The earlier shots are scanned-in Polaroids, but as the time lapse progresses and the resolution of the photos increases, the brightness of the Fading Girl begins to diminish: little by little, the hair thins; little by little, the eyes dim; little by little, the face withers, the skin droops, the bright young wa­terfall becomes a darkened millpond, one more victim in the septic tank of aging. And it doesn't make me sad so much as leave an impression of sadness, like watching a stone sink but never hit bottom.

    Every day for forty years.

    I've watched the video hundreds of times now: at night before bed, in the morning before school, in the library dur­ing lunch, on my phone during class, in my head during the in-betweens, I hum the Fading Girl like a song over and over again, and every time it ends I swear I'll never watch it again. But like the...
Reviews-
  • Kirkus

    March 1, 2018
    Noah Oakman is having a rough year.There's the issue of his bad back, which has pretty much blown his champion swimming career out of the water (or has it?). And then there are the strange incongruities that keep popping up after he gets very drunk at a party one night and ends up hanging out with the son of a dead inventor (or does he?). A new scar on his mother's cheek, a clumsy dog that's suddenly cured, a best friend (gay and of Puerto Rican and Dutch descent) who is suddenly into Marvel instead of DC Comics--all these bizarre occurrences create a patchwork of confusion and dread. What happened to him the night of the party? Why does he keep having the same dream over and over? To find the answer, Noah, a white Midwestern boy, embarks on a deep dive within himself and navigates the psychological inconsistencies within his own mind with a mix of intellectual connections and acute self-importance (he is a teenager, after all) that occasionally veers toward self-indulgence. Arnold's (Kids of Appetite, 2016, etc.) major plot points often feel convenient rather than revelatory, though the book as a whole hangs together well as a what-if, second-chance, awaking-from-a-dream narrative.A compelling exploration of a life within a life. (Fiction. 14-17)

    COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    March 19, 2018
    In Arnold’s (Mosquitoland) dry-witted and existentially minded story, 16-year-old Noah Oakman’s life has been laid out in front of him. College swimming recruiters are calling, and all he sees ahead of him are four unfulfilling years at a college he is unenthusiastic about. To get some breathing space, he fakes a back injury, and afterward, begins to focus more on his strange fascinations: four seemingly unconnected people. During a disorienting drunken night, Noah meets Circuit Lovelock, the son of a famous inventor, telling him “It’s like my life is this old sweater. And I’ve outgrown it.” Circuit’s attempt to hypnotize Noah recalibrates his reality, and everything has changed, except for his strange fascinations and a handful of people who, Noah realizes, share a common trait: loneliness. Arnold’s characters are seeking higher meaning but he manages to keep the story from drifting into the esoteric by creating moments of true tenderness. Noah’s own writing (“I think writing is less about the words and more about the silence between them”) and his internal exploration propel the narrative forward, allowing Arnold to explore the stagnancy of a predetermined path and unanswered questions about reality, interpretation, and imagination. Ages 14–up. Agent: Daniel Lazar, Writers House.

  • School Library Journal

    April 1, 2018

    Gr 9 Up-It's nearly the end of summer before senior year, and introspective David Bowie fan Noah Oakman feels stuck. The Rosa-Haas twins, Val and Alan, have been Noah's best friends since he moved to Iverton, IL. When Val drags him to a drinking party he'd rather not attend, Noah decides to imbibe, the night gets stranger than he expected; he gets hypnotized by a homeschooled kid. Suddenly, everything feels different in "most peculiar" small ways. The past, the present, and everyone has slight differences that are making him question his sanity. Why is Val suddenly talking about UCLA instead of SAIC? Why is Alan's room filled with Marvel instead of DC comics like it always had been? And Noah is sure that his parents watched Friends every night, but suddenly it is, was, and always will be Seinfeld. Readers are in for a weird, light sci-fi adventure here with a major twist and an unexpected third act emergency. Arnold's latest is ambitious, bizarre, and a book his fans will adore. While a bit heady, this is a comedic coming-of-age tale with plenty of pop culture and literary references and the snarky, casual, and observational feel of a mumblecore comedy. Supporting characters are fully fleshed out and hilarious. VERDICT A weird, compelling teen-angst trip that will appeal to fans of John Corey Whaley.-Emily Moore, Camden County Library System, NJ

    Copyright 2018 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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