Book Review: Charm & Strange by Stephanie Keuhn

Charm & Strange by Stephanie Keuhn
Young Adult | Contemporary | Realistic Fiction
Published by St. Martin’s Press on January 11, 2013

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 . . .

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.

To be frank, I wanted to like this book a lot more than I actually did. I’ve read so many rave reviews on Charm & Strange, therefore I expected something specular and riveting. What I got was extremely confusing and mediocre. Right off the bat, you’re confused. You’re thrown into this story that’s being told by this unreliable narrator who’s a bit on the crazy side, meaning he really doesn’t know what the heck to think, because he may or may not be suicidal.

Honestly, as a reader, you never get any of Win/Drew’s backstory from the actual story until the end or until you draw your own conclusion (that, if judging by the werewolf “callings,” is probably wrong). Before reading the book, I had read the summary once, so I was a bit blind going into the book. At first, I thought Win and Drew were two completely different people. I mean, they lived such different lives! Long story short, by reading the summary you’ve pretty much read the book.

That leads me to my next point. You really get noting from the book. It probably would’ve been a more entertaining book if Win/Drew had turned into a werewolf. By the end of the book, I really wasn’t sure what the heck I had just read. Honestly, I still don’t know what the heck I had just read. This is horrible of me, but I think if this book hadn’t been so highly “acclaimed” by bigger book blogger, I probably would’ve enjoyed the idea of the book more.

I understand that this was a coming-of-age story about a boy who was struggling with an abusive, trying past, but it was hard to see that when I was waiting for something jaw-droppingly amazing. The entire time, I had been waiting for something awe-inspiring to occur when really the ending was just…meh. And I never completely understood the point in Drew’s point of view, aka Win’s past. You never get anything from that. All the text and conversations were cryptic and mysterious, so much so that I didn’t want to try and decipher the true meaning.

The one redeeming aspect of this book was Lex. I liked him. He had spunk. On one hand, he was a bully and wasn’t very nice to Win, but then again Win wasn’t the stablest of friends. To me, Lex took care of Win in a way that other people couldn’t. I admired that about him.

In the end, Charm & Strange just managed to disappoint me, nothing more, nothing less. I didn’t hate it or dislike it, I just didn’t think it deserved all those five-stars that had been thrown in its face. Then again, maybe those bloggers felt something emotionally toward the book that I didn’t. I guess you could say I didn’t connect with any characters other than Lex or sympathize with Win/Drew. I would recommend this book to people who like slower books that are character analyses, and for people who aren’t heavily influenced by hype like I am.


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2 thoughts on “Book Review: Charm & Strange by Stephanie Keuhn

  1. Yes, I sooo agree with this review. I just didn’t love it like everyone else. It was so disappointing. I think, like you said, because I’d read so many glowing reviews of it I was expecting something more. The writing was lovely, though, so I probably would pick up another book by this author, but the story itself I found to be quite confusing and unclear. Eh. I guess in the end it just wasn’t for me.


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