Book Review: Charm And Strange by Stephanie Kuehn

Charm & Strange CoverBook: Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn

Published June 2013 by St Martin’s Griffin|216 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the e-book from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

What It’s About: 

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.

What I Thought:

I’ve heard some really good things about Charm & Strange, but I had a hard time getting into it.  It was definitely frustrating to read, and it was confusing, and Win/Drew is definitely unreliable as a narrator, which is actually one of the things I liked about the book.

Since Win/Drew is so unreliable, you’re not sure what to believe or what’s going on, and that’s always interesting to me, but this was a case where my own confusion overshadowed everything else.  Win/Drew had to deal with some horrible things, most of which weren’t said outright, so you have to come to your own conclusions about what happened…and even then, you’re not completely sure if what you think happened was actually what happened.  At least, I have my ideas on what happened, but only in the vaguest sense, s if you’re looking for specifics, you’re out of luck.  And this is definitely one of those books where everything makes more sense by the end of the book.  Which is fine, but it’s not something I’m a big fan of in general.

I did like seeing what happened in Win/Drew’s past, but the mystery surrounding it made it hard for me to empathize with him.  It is an interesting way to deal with something so tough, and I don’t blame Win/Drew for trying (unsuccessfully) to move on.  It just didn’t work for me.  It was definitely drawn out and becomes obvious, and there’s something about it that makes me think of Liar, which I read and thought was okay.

I think I would have preferred that the issues be faced head on, instead of shrouded in mystery, because not knowing didn’t work in the vague way that the story was told.

My Rating:

2 stars.  Mostly because it’s an okay story, but also because I really can’t work up any energy to actually care.

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