Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn

Win is away at boarding school. He doesn’t see his family anymore and in chapters that alternate between the present and the past, Win, with the help of new girl Jordan and former friend Lex, works to come to terms with the curse within his bloodline.

Kuehn does brilliant things here with voice and plotting. As the reader moves deeper into the story it becomes apparent that Win is quite the unreliable narrator. With the chapters alternating between present and past, why Win is unreliable becomes a mystery to be solved with Kuehn giving clues that draw the reader further and further into Win’s story. Kuehn does some very fine work with theme as well, drawing from both physics and paranormal tropes to highlight the horror of Win’s past and his rocky road to recovery.

I loved, loved, loved this book although it was brutal to read. The focus on how Win had to choose to not just survive, but to live was beautifully done. I’m also a sucker for this kind of puzzle mystery. Charm & Strange is a great choice for fans of darker realistic fiction and I’m looking forward to Kuehn’s sophomore effort, Complicit, just published this June!

– Reviewed by Jennifer Jazwinski, YA Librarian at AAPLD

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