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.
Charm & Strange is a captivating tale that contains heavy and dark topics. The characters and relationships are unique, interesting, and complex, and many relationships don't end up where you might expect them to. This story brilliantly weaves the present and the past together by alternating chapters between them.
POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD
Win is a wonderfully complex character who hasn't been dealt a good hand in life. He lives in a boarding school in Vermont that his parents sent him too, and he spends his time there dealing with his many problems. He experienced many things as a child, especially the summer that he is eleven, that no child should have to experience. He's been through abuse at the hand of his father. He also has severe motion sickness, which causes problems for him on car trips. Because of something he did after a tennis match, he worries he could become like his dad. He fears the wolf inside of him.
There are some relationships in this story that don't go the way you might expect them to. For example, when Win meets Jordan, I was expecting a romance to develop. I didn't realize she would end up dating a different guy by the end of the story. There are also some strange relationships when Win's family goes up to visit their cousins. There is a relationship between Win's older brother Keith, and one of the cousins, that seemed like it was a relationship that cousins shouldn't have.
The way this story is told enables readers to get a full picture of Win, also known as Drew. You get to read about the past, and the present, and they alternate chapters. By reading his past, you see what events have shaped him into the boy he is today. It shows why he would be emotionally unstable. When you see what's happened to him, you understand him.
"Because blood is blood, and every family has its own force.
Its own flavor.
Its own charm and strange."
-Charm and Strange, pg 167 of the eGalley
About the Author
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.