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Charm & Strange
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 . . .
In Stephanie Kuehn's brilliant debut Charm & Strange, 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.
Reach And Teach says:
In our brick-and-mortar shop in San Mateo, most of our sales are "hand-sells." That means someone comes in and asks for our suggestions either for themselves or as a gift. After sitting down to read Charm & Strange and being unable to stop until I had read it all the way through to the end, I sat dumbstruck wondering how I could possibly hand-sell this book. It is one of the most powerful psychological thrillers/mysteries I've ever read, narrated by Drew and Win, the same tortured person at two different ages. But what kind of torture? And how can I tell someone "You've GOT to read this book" without giving away any of its deep, dark secrets?
How indeed? I even wrote to the author to ask how a shop like ours, dedicated to peacemaking should approach selling this book. She responded immediately. "I can only say that, on a philosophical level, for me, making the world a peaceful, more just place means talking about the things that are unspeakable: giving them a name and not letting anyone be alone in their darkness. There's already too much silence and too much shame, and painful as it is, the book isn't what children need protecting from. Given that perspective, I would imagine that you would sell it with the same grace and kindness and compassion as you sell all your books. It sounds as if you care deeply about your customers and their well-being, which is something so very special and dear. Follow your heart. That's all any of us can do."
Wow. Spot on. That is what we must do, follow our hearts and my heart is telling me that a lot of people have to read this book.
The very first line of the book, "I don't feel the presence of God here." grabbed me and held onto me through the very end. Sometimes the darkness is so deep, and so terrible, that it is almost impossible to feel the presence of God. But if there is one person nearby, who understands that darkness because of having read a book like this, then the presence of God can be felt and a glimmer of light can let even the most tortured know "that choosing to live can mean so much more than not dying."
Speaking from personal experience here, despite this book being very hard for me to read, I will hand sell this to others, because only light can dispel the darkness, and powerful storytelling like this is a very rare thing.
All of that aside, if you're looking for an amazing psychological thriller that is impossible to put down, get a copy of this book and set aside some time because you will NOT put it down until you are done.
Bravo to Stephanie Kuehn.
- Written by Stephanie Kuehn
- ISBN 9781250021946, 1250021944
- Hardback / With dust jacket - 224 Pages
- Juvenile Fiction / Social Issues / Depression & Mental Illness
- Ages 13 to 18, Grades 8 And Up