Kuehn, Stephanie. Charm and Strange. Electric Monkey/Egmont, 2013.
My review of Charm and Strange is going to take a different format from the reviews I usually write. It is not very often that I come across a book that I really do not know how to review. What makes this review even harder is that I cannot say much about the plot without giving up spoilers.
This debut novel is written through a series of events—“Matter” in the present and “Anti-Matter” in the past---through the eyes of Winston Drew Winters, aka Win and Drew. In the present, sixteen-year-old Win is a boarding school student in a remote part of New England. He won’t let anyone get close to him for fear of what he might do to others.
In the past, Drew is a young boy who excels at tennis and looks up to his older brother, Keith. He fears his overbearing, drunken father and often has unexplained blackouts. Drew has terrible motion sickness and bouts of uncontrollable, violent anger.
The summer Drew, Keith, and Siobhan, their younger sister, visit their cousins and grandparents leads to a family tragedy and more mental problems for Drew. It is also the reason he ends up at boarding school fighting demons in his mind and fearing what will eventually become of him.
Charm and Strange seems to start out as a paranormal novel but ends up as something totally different. The beginning of the novel is confusing and the plot wanders, but the plot threads finally weave themselves together to make sense. Some readers may not wait long enough to see this through and will miss the satisfying conclusion.
The plot is character-driven, and the author does a wonderful job of fleshing out the characters. Even the minor characters are extremely complex. Additionally, the subject matter has obviously been well researched and brilliantly integrated into the story.
Charm and Strange is a psychological thrill that deals with a sensitive subject. It is for mature readers. I highly recommend it for upper high school students and public library libraries and give it five out of five fleur de lis!