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.
“Because blood is blood, and every family has its own force.
Its own flavor.
Its own charm and strange.”
Charm & Strange is a beautifully haunting book about a hurt little boy and a confused young man. It’s a heartbreaking and painful read, yet completely worth it. In many ways, Charm & Strange reminds me of another book that I read last year called Liar, and if you liked that one, it’s very likely that you’ll like this one as well.
In this case, the less you know about the book the better. I found this book after reading a very poorly worded library summary and it greatly diminished my overall enjoyment around this book. Charm & Strange is one of those books which, ideally, should be picked up without knowing anything about it.
Suffice it to say, Charm & Strange is about a boy with a wolf inside of him that is begging to come out and show itself to the world.
Kuehn’s expertise and ingenuity is what really sells this book. Their skill in storytelling is absolutely unmatched and gorgeous. Charm & Strange, for much of the book, is told in chapters alternating from Antimatter (past) and Matter (present). At the beginning, the chapters aren’t very clear, but as the story continues, things slowly come into place and the harshness of the world becomes more and more apparent.
Andrew is one of the complex characters I’ve encountered. He’s the Will Graham of the book, where you can practically see the flimsy threads that hold him together. Throughout the book you watch, one by one, the threads snapping and the wolf growing.
The supporting characters are weaker – especially those from the Matter chapters – yet I didn’t mind it all too much. It gave Kuehn more room to toy with Andrew and strengthen his character.
In my opinion, I felt the ending was a bit too neat. Everything came together and people were happy. It felt out of place in the book. While I wasn’t expecting a soul crushing ending, I just wish that it were a bit less ‘happily ever after’.
Charm & Strange is a marvel of YA literature and literature in general. It encapsulates the reason why I still read YA books. Kuehn’s debut is a novel that which still lingers in the back of my head and will continue to do so for a time to come.