(Review) Charm & Strange
Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn
Publication Date: 2013
Pages: 224 (Paperback)
Genre: Young Adult
My Goodreads Rating: 4 Stars
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.
This book was seriously something. It touches on some pretty tough subjects but still manages to be interesting and witty, all the while completely messing with your head.
The chapters alternate between Win, a boarding school student who keeps his distance from everywhere because of what he believes lives inside of him, and Drew, his younger self. Being in Win's head is pretty scary. He's obviously got a lot of things going on, but those things are revealed through Drew's chapters.
Win is a tough character to connect with because his narrative is all over the place. You find out soon enough what he believes about himself because of his "friend" Lex. I use the term "friend" loosely because Win really doesn't like being around other people. Most of the students at his boarding school think he's a smart, athletic jerk, but a lot of them think is absolutely crazy. We're also introduced to Jordan, a new student at the school, who plays a huge part in Win's, uh, "change".
He definitely has some anger issues, which are referenced plenty in Win and Drew's chapters. To me, Drew's chapters were harder to get through. It highlights the summer he was ten years old and how it was spent with his family. Drew's chapters shed the light on what's going on in Win's head better than Win does because he is so consumed with "changing" that it is hard to get a coherent thought from him.
The first part of this is tough to get through, but the ending definitely brings it all together. The reveal of why Win has chosen the life he has is heartbreaking. He changed his name and was forced into boarding school where he ostracizes himself. You get the feeling that he genuinely hates himself and you really start to feel for Win by the end of the book.
Parts of this book were definitely hard to get through, especially Drew's history, but watching Win grow and learn to trust other's is refreshing for this type of story.
(Warning: this book mentions sexual abuse.)
Bonus: You can buy this book on Book Outlet for $2.49.