Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotik
by Arnold, David

"This is Noah Oakman, sixteen, Bowie believer, concise historian, disillusioned swimmer, son, brother, friend. Then Noah gets hypnotized. Now Noah sees changes-inexplicable scars, odd behaviors, rewritten histories-in all those around him. All excepthis Strange Fascinations"-

David Arnold lives in Lexington, Kentucky, with his (lovely) wife and (boisterous) son. He is the New York Times bestselling author of Kids of Appetite and Mosquitoland, and his books have been translated into over a dozen languages.
Learn more at and follow him on Twitter @roofbeam and Instagram @iamdavidarnold.

*Starred Review* Noah is a rising senior who loves three other things: David Bowie, making real-world connections, and minutiae. Life is good, except Noah dreads returning to the swim team, making a decision about college, and being alone. After leaving an end-of-summer party drunk, Noah feels hypnotized. As a result, he detects slight changes in his family, friends, and external life. The minutiae turn into obsessions, four of which become his Strange Fascinations: a local semi-celebrity musician, who dropped a photo that is now in Noah's possession; an old man with a goiter, who he sees walking alone every morning; his favorite deceased author, whose words and sketches are codes to crack; and a woman on YouTube, whose video is comprised of pictures she has taken of herself every day for four decades. They are the only things in his life that go unchanged, and he sets out to learn why, making connections he never dreamed of in the process. Highly introspective and strangely fascinating, Noah dominates this surreal story with his complex internal struggles to make sense of external world "ch-ch-ch-changes." Arnold (Kids of Appetite, 2016) has written an in-your-face validation of the power of real and honest friendship, guaranteed to mesmerize readers and leave them altered. Grades 9-12. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.

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-indulge nce. 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 Kirkus 2018 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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 saddest human boomerang, I always come back.
Twelve minutes of staring at your screen and watching a person die. It’s not violent. It’s not immoral or shameful; nothing is done to her that isn’t done to all of us, in turn. It’s called An Examination of the Aging Process, but I call bullshit. That girl isn’t aging; she’s fading. And I can’t look away.
There it is, the inevitable shoulder tap.
Time to join the land of the breathing.

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