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.
There is more than meets the eye with Charm & Strange. I had gone into this book mislead by the Goodreads synopsis and the genres. Usually I have a bad habit of just plunging straight into a novel without really reading the synopsis. I like the mystery of it when I end up doing it that way. But when I read the Goodreads synopsis Ii messed me up, leading me to assumptions that were way too far off course. The thing about Charm & Strange, it that the plot of the book is too good to really delve into because one false step and a slip up in my explanation could give everything away. And trust me, you do not want me to spoil the surprise that is Charm & Strange.
So breaking away from the plot in this review, let’s talk about Andrew Winston Winters. Cracking him is not an easy feat. Stephanie Kuehn has created such a high strung, emotionally involved and complex male character that I can’t even put a finger on how to go about really explaining the guy. When you first start reading the book you are introduced to how Win has the ability to lose control of himself to the point that he can get physical, but he had let himself get the crap beaten out of him while commenting that it wouldn’t be fair since he was much stronger than they were. The fact that Win has this disposition of cracking out of the blue but not defending himself made him one tough cookie to understand. The boy is walking on eggshells the entire novel. Opposite Win is is ten-year-old self, Drew who is given his own story. He is immature, but protective of his older brother and his younger sister. Both persona of characters have their own story arc that starts to intersect later in the novel. And with that character arc there is character development that completely separates Win and Drew which made the idea that they were actually two different people rather than being the same person just ages apart.
I found it fascinating that Win’s story is processed over over the course of one whole night. The writing is so smooth and simplistic that it rolls right off the tongue. What happens to be the part to decipher are the descriptions of Win and Drew, the boarding school friends, the siblings, the cousins, the parents, the wolves, and the past that continues to morph in with the present. It is an ever-constant cycle of past and present that moves the story along so nicely. Kuehn uses the flow of the story to sparsely inform and reveal tidbits of useful and provoking information about everyone important to to Andrew Winston that it eventually maps out the truth.
Final Summation: A definite strange novel that has that complex charm to it. CHARM & STRANGE goes beyond the realm of most YA novels, leaving you in a state of contemplation right after finishing the novel. You won’t know what hit you.
First Line: I don’t geel the presence of God here.
Stephanie Kuehn is a YA writer who grew up in Berkeley, California, which is a quirky sort of a place with a ton of wonderful bookstores. Her very first job was working in one of those bookstores, and she’s been a freakishly avid reader for as long as she can remember. Stephanie’s other passions include mental health advocacy, social justice, and sports of all kinds. She’s currently living in Northern California with her family and their wild menagerie of pets.
www.stephaniekuehn.com | twitter.com/stephkuehn