Charm and Strange, by Stephanie Kuehn

petk0616's review against another edition

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I won this book through Goodreads First Reads. I really wish I would have read this sooner. I kept putting it off in favor of other books, but I wish I had not. The main character Andrew, who is referred to as Drew or Win, is a boarding school student with anger problems and a mysterious past. Throughout his life he has pushed people away preferring the solitude that he hides behind. The story is split between the present and past with each chapter switching time frames. As the story progresses you learn that things are not exactly as they seem. I was completely surprised by the true nature of the story and its ending. It was a deep and dark story with a psychological twist. There were things in the beginning that were unclear and confusing that were later revealed. This was just a great book. The way that the novel reads is just great. This was Kuehn's debut novel and it honestly did not read that way.

queenoferebor's review against another edition

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This book is utterly confusing. I'm not sure how to rate it. I liked it, it was short and intense, but I had a whole different idea of what it was going to be. Also, it is very difficult to review it without throwing spoilers at yer faces.

I'll leave it with "it's a psychological and philosophical journey. It's a thriller that leaves you wondering what you just read. It's nothing like your everyday young adult novel. if you are looking for answers here, you will find just more questions."

molokovell0cet's review against another edition

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Big City Bookworm

Well, Charm & Strange was definitely very different from anything I’ve ever read before. It almost felt like certain cult classic films in the sense that it felt off putting and made me a little uneasy, as did films like Fight Club and Trainspotting. It was dark, chilling and definitely very strange…and I enjoyed it quite a bit!

Charm & Strange was written so well, especially for a novel containing themes that you don’t typically see in many novels period. Charm & Strange deals with topics that are so dark and disturbing that I was actually quite genuinely shocked while reading it. To have Ellen Hopkins, the queen of all things realistically dark and horrid, blurb a novel and call it twisted really means something.

Charm & Strange tells the story of Andrew Winston Winters. It jumps between two time periods every other chapter, one being the past and one being the present. The past deals with Andrew and his troubled family, while the present takes place at a boarding school where Andrew, who now goes by the name Win, currently attends. We know there was an event that took place between these two time periods and as the story moves forward all of the details slowly start to unravel.

It’s hard to talk about this novel and its complicated story without the risk of exposing those who haven’t read it yet to plot ruining spoilers, making this most likely one of the shortest reviews I have written. Even I wasn’t completely sure of what was going on until I got closer toward the end of the novel, when more concrete answers were provided.

There were quite a few different characters throughout the novel which could have become confusing, but because they were separated by the separate time periods, they actually helped to differentiate them from one another. Each of the characters were disturbed in their own way, but nothing compared to Andrew and his family.

What you should know going into this novel is that it is definitely dark, twisted and strange, but ultimately tells a complicated and difficult story with extreme skill. I will definitely be picking up more novels from Stephanie Kuehn, especially if they are as unique as Charm & Strange.


Initial post reading thoughts:

This book was definitely dark, strange and creepy. It was very cryptic and slowly revealed secrets as the story went on. This story definitely dealt with some dark themes and I think Stephanie Kuehn did a fantastic job in writing it.

Stay tuned for a full review coming soon.

kyleofbooks's review against another edition

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EDIT, January 21st, 2016: This review has haunted me just as much as the book. Over time, the back-and-forth volleying in my mind between a 4 star rating and a 5 star one, has left me with mental whiplash (is that redundant?? Because "whiplash" is a mental sta-- fuck it!). I digress. After nearly a year since reading 'Charm & Strange', I've come to the decision to change my rating to 5 STARS! Much deserved. Fade out. My mind rests easy tonight.

This book was strange, indeed. But, that's not a bad thing. It approaches its difficult subject matter in such a unique, and frankly refreshing way, that it is simply un-put-downable.

Although I breezed through this novel (topping off at a clean, crisp 210 pages), and was enthralled throughout, I struggled with my final rating- Is it worthy of a full 5 stars? No. Yes! It didn't exactly blow me away. It made me feel deeply. I was intrigued by the initial approach, but felt somewhat wanting- wanting more! I nearly gave it 3 stars, but then I took a few moments once I put the book down, to remember the emotions this particular novel evoked whilst reading it, and there's some truly powerful/profound stuff nestled between the covers. I found the central topics were handled with care, sensitivity, and genuine honesty. So, I settled for a well-deserved 4 stars (maybe even 4.5 stars in a truly perfect world where there's a Goodreads that allows that sort of thing). Also, as a post-edit: I've made the extremely rare decision to add this four-star book to my 'Favorites' shelf.*

In the end, readers will be drawn into Charm & Strange; unable to stop until the very last page, letting the mystery beautifully unravel. There's no other way around it.

kai93's review against another edition

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1.5. I really forced myself to finish this one. I seem to have read a few too many books lately which have alternating past/present chapters and it's starting to feel a bit played out. Not this book's fault, I know. This book was going for something different and while it was not your typical YA fare, (and I do realize I am not in the target demographic of this book) it all just felt a little too try-hard to me.

endlessreader's review against another edition

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I kinda didn't like Charm & Strange at the beginning. I hate the feeling of starting a novel, yet feeling like you've been dumped right in the middle of it with no explanation as to what is going on. This book is incredibly confusing at the beginning and that was frustrating as hell for me. However, since this is a relatively short book and today is the day of the 24 in 48 readathon, I decided to stick it out. And I have to say, I was not disappointed. While I sort of had an inkling as to where Charm & Strange was going, when it actually got there, it was like a punch to the gut due to how screwed up it was. I definitely think the ending is worth the frustrating beginning and I wholeheartedly recommend this book.

ashley_elizabeth's review against another edition

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Though the book is short, I could only read small passages at a time - it is heavier (and overall different) than I expected. An interesting take on mental illness (not a spoiler - it is shelved on GR in Mental Health) and how trauma can affect a person's development. I will definitely be looking to read more of the author's works.

readerpants's review

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This one wasn't for me.

stefaniajoy's review against another edition

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I highly recommend that you go into this book without reading any reviews/spoilers/reviews with spoilers, because that really makes the book. The mystery, the struggle to understand what happened, is an important part of what makes it so good.

Haunting, painful, beautiful. I thought the structure was excellent. Normally I do not like when an author switches from past to present throughout the book, but it worked perfectly for this situation. I also really enjoyed how the understanding of Lex as a character changed throughout the book. Done very well.

julie_kcwbc's review against another edition

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In an act of full disclosure I won a copy of this book from St. Martin’s Griffin and Goodreads. Thank you to both of them for the opportunity to read this book.

Don’t worry about the synopsis or the tags on this book. It is better to go into this book without knowing what’s coming. This story is confusing, sometimes incredibly sad and a very interesting thriller. I really ended up enjoying it. It is unlike anything I have read before, and unexpectedly I finished it in one sitting.

From the outset you can see there is a serious problem with the narrator, but without more information it is impossible to distinguish real and not real. Kuehn did a masterful job leading the reader through this dark and disturbed teen’s mind. There are so many questions about Drew/Win that seemed to press on me throughout the book. Why is there such a huge difference between Drew/Win? Is there any paranormal aspects to this book? Is it all in Drew/Win’s head? It was frustrating and not what I expected when I started this book.

I suspect there will be quite a few people who give up on this book because of the confusing start and slow revelations. There was a point about 50 pgs into this story where I was staring at the page thinking Where is this going??? Do I want to keep reading this? Then, very slowly, things started to be revealed and I found myself completely absorbed in this story.

I would encourage you to put up with the confusing moments. There is a large chunk of the book where the reader is completely in the dark, but the ending is what makes this book an incredible piece of writing. I was left with my mouth hanging open at the end and actually reread that last few pages a few times just to try and wrap my mind around it. It blew my mind and made me very interested to see what Stephanie Kuehn will come up with next.