- Release Date: June 11, 2013
- Pages: 216
- Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
I honestly have no idea how to begin reviewing a book like Charm & Strange. The entire story is told through the often fuzzy lens of an unreliable narrator, so you never really know what is going on. However by the time I got to the end I was impressed with this debut novel from Stephanie Kuehn. Charm & Strange has to be the most unique YA I've read in a long time, it challenges so many of the ideas of what a YA novel can be.
It's easier to discuss the set up of the book than the actual plot, because I think that is better left unsaid. This book is really two stories, each chapter alternates between 16-year-old Win Winters and 10-year-old Win the summer he stayed with his grandparents. What I find so unique about Charm & Strange is the set up and how it challenges the conventions of YA fiction. By most definitions YA tends to be very present oriented and about moving forward, but this book is very reflective. The protagonist is a child for most of the time and the plot is more concerned with decoding the past than preparing for the future.
According to the back of the book, Kuehn is studying to get a doctorate in clinical psychology, so the way she write about how the mind works probably comes from a deeper academic understanding. I'm sure she has a wealth of experience that informs her writing and I am going to definitely read her next novel to see what she was going to do next.
This novel does fall on the more mature side of the YA line, it has some fairly mature concepts and a couple more graphic description than I'm used to seeing in YA.
Charm & Strange may be short, but debut author Stephanie Kuehn delivers a one of a kind, eerie and cerebral read that will only make sense when you flip the last page.