Charm & Strange
Release Date: June 11th, 2013
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Number of Pages: 224
Rating: 5 stars
Word Rating: Mindfuck
When you’ve been kept caged in the dark, it’s impossible to see the forest for the trees. It’s impossible to see anything, really. Not without bars . . .
Andrew Winston Winters is at war with himself.
He’s part Win, the lonely teenager exiled to a remote Vermont boarding school in the wake of a family tragedy. The guy who shuts all his classmates out, no matter the cost.
He’s part Drew, the angry young boy with violent impulses that control him. The boy who spent a fateful, long-ago summer with his brother and teenage cousins, only to endure a secret so monstrous it led three children to do the unthinkable.
Wordss can't even begin to describe how incredibly impressed I am with this fantastically beautiful and incredibly powerful little novel. I feel like I get this across in each and every review for books I give five stars, but I am not a reviewer who gives five stars easily. In fact, Charm & Strange is the first book I've given five stars this entire year, and trust me when I say it deserves those five stars, and then some.
Over the course of one night, while stuck at a party deep in the New England woods, Andrew battles both the pain of his past and the isolation of his present.
Before the sun rises, he’ll either surrender his sanity to the wild darkness inside his mind or make peace with the most elemental of truths—that choosing to live can mean so much more than not dying.
Not only is this novel endlessly brilliant, but it's masterfully written with alternating chapters of past and present, with each timeframe melding seamlessly into the other by the end of the novel. Writing alternating chapters between two characters, let alone two entirely different timeframes, is something I've found not too many authors are fully capable of doing, but with Charm & Strange, Stephanie Kuehn's talent absolutely shines. As well as that, the main character, Win is one of the most complex characters I've ever read about in young adult--and even though he is a cold and standoffish character, what made the cold and standoffish nature of his character even more impressive was that we saw from the chapters told in the past how he became the person he is today, and the revelation by the end, while not entirely shocking, is completely and utterly breathtaking in how it's handled.
This review is much shorter than most of my reviews, but I've said all that needs to be said about this novel, and anything left unsaid by me is left unsaid because I want future readers to go into Charm & Strange completely blind, so that they may find themselves amazed and shocked by each turn this novel took just like I found myself. Charm & Strange, while a bit slow moving, is an incredibly poignant, unforgettable, and beautifully haunting novel, and is unquestionably one of the most outstanding debuts I've ever had the pleasure to read in my entire life. It deals with multiple tough issues, but each and every one of those issues are met with the deft hand of an absolutely excellent and talented author whose works I will unquestionably be reading--and most likely loving--in the future.