Review: Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn

Book Review: Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn
book cover Book title Charm & Strange
Series No
Author Stephanie Kuehn
Pages 216
Year published 2013
Category | Genre Young Adult | Contemporary, Mental Health
Rating 4 stars

I somehow feel that I have to start this review by admitting that this is my third attempt on reviewing Charm & Strange. What is it about this book that make it so hard to review?

There are a couple of things, mainly:

  • the way it was structured. Kuehn told her story from 1st person point of view but from two different timeline: his current life and flashbacks of him as a kid. Both timelines build up to the climax—which is too spoilery to mention here
  • the best parts of it are the parts I cannot mention without spoiling you of the story itself.

With those challenges in mind, I decided to go back to free-form rather than forcing myself to write a structured review I cannot get through with. This will also be very short review.

Charm & Strange started like a psychological mystery. The MC was standing near the woods staring at the new girl in school, there was a person found dead near that place, and then one of their friends was missing. Charm & Strange is indeed a mystery story (among others), but it might not be the mystery you thought it was at the first glance.

The book told the story of a boy, Win and his past self, Drew. Win was a very clever student, a star athlete, and according to himself not a very nice person. He also believes he’s a monster. Throughout the book, Kuehn weaved us these interconnected stories on what happened to him during his Drew time that he became Win.

Reading Charm & Strange is like watching dreadful events unfolding, knowing it’ll tear your heart, but you just cannot look away. It was a strange book for sure, but it was also awfully compelling, I found myself reading this book while standing in the bus, one hand on the grab handle, one hand flipping the pages on my phone. One just had to know.

The relationships between people in this book are what made Charm & Strange for me. Both the bad and the good ones. I liked that in this book, even though Win was struggling to cope with his reality and the monster he believe he was, he still made time to try to be kind and helpful. I liked that Kuehn made him resilient even though he believed he was weak. Kuehn didn’t make her characters black and white and I appreciate C&S more because of this. It’s not to say that there aren’t characters you want to punch in the face though.

One thing I read about Stephanie Kuehn is that she tried to avoid the trope that romantic affection can transcend emotional pain. Reading Charm & Strange, you could tell she uphold her principle. There’s very little romance in this book and what romance there is never became the main focus of the story.

If there’s one thing I found a little annoying—and most likely it’s the case of it’s not you it’s me—is that at times, I found it a little too dramatic. It didn’t grandiose mental illness or anything of that sort, but there are times when I felt the author low-key waving her hands at me ‘LOOK HERE, THIS IS GOING TO SURPRISE YOU.’

I didn’t include a summary in this review because I’ve only just now read it while writing this review and it surprised me how spoilery it was. The best way to read Charm & Strange in my opinion is to go jump straight into the book without reading any synopsis or even review. However if you’d like to read a summary, you could go to the goodreads page here.

I personally prefer Stephanie’s description of the book:

“It’s the story of a boy who believes that he is a monster. And it’s about understanding why.”

Final score

4 stars
4 stars (out of 5 stars)

Let me know, have you read Charm & Strange or do you plan to read it? If you have read it, what do you think about the book? Feel free to agree and disagree with my thoughts about it.

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