Review: Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn

Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn
Release Date: June 11, 2013
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Pages: 213
Source:  book provided by the publisher for review

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.

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.


Review: This book is simply incredible. Dark imagery and subject matter woven through out the book will keep the reader in state of suspension. The journey of Drew and Win, one person with with two sides, left me stunned. I wondered about the title of the book at first, but now I completely get it.

At first we see the aggressive side of Win, a boy who seems unable to control his violent impulses, but then we are shown the other side, Drew. A boy so horribly troubled and lost, scared and fragile. Drew is the normal part though, as Win surfaces only when Drew is no longer capable of coping and snaps. For a time it is unclear what exactly is going on and where the story will lead us. I admit I took what was intended as symbolism too literally but, I noticed many other people had also fallen into that trap. But, you will see in the end that what we were so sure was going on with Drew, was all so horribly wrong. It took my breath away. There is something happening with Drew that is so terrible, nothing you can imagine could prepare you for it. I really think this book will get a second read through from me because it was just so tightly woven I never imagined the path we were heading down.

Since the book has a young adult cast of characters, it should be noted that this is a very dark novel and perhaps not for the younger teen audience. However, as with many YA novels, any age range from older teens and up could appreciate this book. Despite the heartbreaking and gut wrenching events depicted, the outcome is one of peace and serenity as Drew comes out of his ordeal still intact and with the strength and ability to move forward. Amazingly skilled writing, very impressive on all counts. I can’t speak highly enough of her talent. Although the book is harrowing and so very intense and sad, not my usual reading material at all, I am glad I read this one and discovered such a great author in the process.

Favorite Quote:  I am of the sea

I am of instablility

I am of harsh, choppy waves roiling with all the up-ness, down-ness, top-ness, bottom-ness contained within my being.

I am of charm and strange