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Sunday, July 28, 2013

Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn

Charm & Strange by Stephanie KuehnCharm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn

Book stats:
Reading Level: Young Adult
ARC: 224 pages
Genre: Fantasy, Mystery, Psychological
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Release Date: June 11, 2013

Series: n/a

Source: Gifted

Reviewed by: Lili

Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository

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.

I picked up this book expecting an intense werewolf novel. And while it was intense, it is perhaps the most unique werewolf novel I have ever read. At its heart, this story is a psychological mystery that had me begging for more. The story is honest, it’s powerful and harsh and true. It deals with insanity and problems and the concept of werewolves on top of everything in a mere 220 pages. It makes you want to bawl your eyes out when you turn the last page and the beautiful writing style really resonates with you. But it leaves you with a lot of questions and ninety percent of the time you have absolutely no clue what is going on. Sheer curiosity is what kept me going--that and the beautiful writing style--but if you don’t have a keen sense of curiosity and a desire to read perhaps one of the most unique books I have ever come across, this can easily be a DNF for some.

This book is told between alternating past and present perspectives of the same boy, but it is blatantly obvious that he is living two completely lives. Andrew Winston Winters is both Drew and Win. Put the two together and you have one seriously messed up kid whose story is captivating and his blatant desire to allow his inner wolf and darkness to escape is astounding. Drew is a young boy who is overwhelmed with anger and dark, inappropriate thoughts when he spends the summer with his older brother and cousins with his grandparents. Win is a lonely teenager at a boarding school who is hiding dark, horrifying secrets that shaped who he is today because of his unsettling childhood. He’s intriguing, complex, and disturbing--all of which combine to create this deliciously dark character whose mind is so interesting to be inside.

Never have I tackled a book who handled insanity in such a way. From the very beginning it’s clear that he’s disturbed and insane. He’s struggling blatantly in so many different ways. But you have to sit throughout the book and piece through his past and present, his odd memories and even stranger dark urges in order to figure out what is going on. Is this the way he was born? Does he have a real issue? Is the werewolf inside him waiting for his proper moon to come out turning him into a ruthless being? Is his life full of hallucinations or dark truths that nobody else is willing to acknowledge and conquer?

The entire point of this story is to discover who Andrew Winston Winters is. Boy, werewolf, psychopath, struggling and lonely teenager. So many different sides to dissect. And all the confusion and insanity found in the beginning of the book comes together in the very end to tell us who he really is, and it is shocking. It is earth-shattering, breathtaking, the tears are a-flowin’ unexpected and powerful. Andrew Winston Winters is one complex being and the eventual discovery in the last few chapters makes the confusion of the beginning so, so worth it. All questions are sufficiently answered and, boy, do you want to feel for this kid.

This book is one to look out for if you can handle a psychological mystery that can pull your heartstrings in all different directions. I was perhaps slightly put off at moments because I wasn’t expecting how dark this book could get. I had to put it down at times to ease my beating heart and take a few deep breaths because of the pain I felt for these characters. But, wow, is this a brave and unique debut. It will stand apart from so many other novels. And though it’s just short of perfect in my eyes, it was damn amazing either way.

The ending, guys. The ending of this book is what makes it unforgettable.


I'm a 18 year old from a small town in New Jersey that's a newcomer to the book blogging world. Because I am an incoming senior in high school the closest thing that I have to a job is being a volunteer at the town library, so I spend most of my time reading and persuading my parents to let me buy more books!

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1 Person left their mark:

  1. Your review definitely caught my interest! I will have to check this out now.

    Ashley @ The Quiet Concert