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)