Saturday, 15 June 2013

Charm and Strange

Ever read one of those books that all the way through you believe one thing is happening, until right at the end the whole plot changes/reveals its true intention and you realise what really happened? This was one of those. It was also one of those books that stayed with you even after you'd turned the last page, a book you wanted to share with everyone just to have them experience the same roller coaster of feelings you felt. It's similar to watching a video you feel is important to share with everyone: you feel the need to MAKE EVERYONE read it.

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 . . .

Charm and Strange by Stephanie Kuehn was simply amazing, it has been a long time since I read a book that really made me remain focused on the story, no drifting could be allowed, this book demands your attention. Written about an extremely important issue Kuehn delves deep into the psychological mindset of the victim, in this case Andrew Winston Winters. However she does it in such a subtle way using metaphors and euphemisms that it isn't horrific and graphic but instead highlights how children adapt their perception on situations to make it appear less horrific. What I really liked was that you didn't really realise what was going on until right at the end, when Kuehn began to break down the wall Drew had created in order to forget his ordeal (basically Drew thinks of his family as werewolves and this helps him deal with his issue.) This continued metaphor softens and actually enhances the impact that writing directly about the ordeal would have. However I don't want to dissect it too much as part of the books charm is unraveling the plot by yourself (finding it very hard to write about it without revealing what this taboo subject Kuehn deals so well with is!)

Kuehn writes the novel by alternating between Andrew's past (antimatter) and Andrew's present (matter). This clear distinction between Drew's flashbacks and his present situation culminates with the final catalyst that causes present Andrews downward spiral into depression and madness being revealed near the end of the book. Although some people may find the changing chapters confusing and difficult to follow; for me, it was a brilliant idea as it helped break up the story and prevented it from becoming too much of an emotional overload. The characters themselves were well developed and unpredictable which added more to the essential suspense of the novel and the masterful way Kuehn made the characters change to fit in with Andrews altered view of his ordeal was amazing as it helped stop the reader guessing immediately what issue she was dealing with and prevented them from losing interest. For three quarters of the novel I was waiting for Drew to turn into a Wolf! I also enjoyed the distinct difference between the characters in Andrews present and past. Present characters were far clearer and easier to follow and pin and more predictable whilst the characters in the past were far darker, hazy and unpredictable as well as drifting in and out of the story.

"A deftly woven, elegant, unnerving psychological thriller about a boy at war with himself, Charm and Strange is a masterful exploration of one of the greatest taboos.

No one really knows who Andrew Winston Winters is. Least of all himself. He is part Win, a lonely teenager exiled to a remote boarding school in the wake of a family tragedy. The guy who shuts the whole world out, no matter the cost, because his darkest fear is of himself …of the wolfish predator within. But he’s also part Drew, the angry boy with violent impulses that control him. The boy who, one fateful summer, was part of something so terrible it came close to destroying him. Sensitive, yet confronting. Unsettling…and utterly enthralling. Unlike anything you will have read before."

If you hadn't already guessed I loved this book and it will receive the esteemed elusive Skinny rating (6 out of 5) and was such a roller coaster, quite a challenging, read that I will love to return to it again. Also as it is Kuehn's debut novel she must be thoroughly commended for this thrilling unsettling piece of work and I seriously hope she gathers a good fan base as I'll be looking out for more of her books and I really want other people to experience her insightful beautiful writing! Published by Electric Monkey an imprint of Egmont, Charm and Strange can be purchased from for £11.56 (hardcover) or £4.30 (e-book) really recommended!!!

En Bon Lu!

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