“I don’t feel the presence of God here.
I pace along the far side of the river, my ears filled with the hum of cicadas and the roar of water flowing over the mill dam. Vermont is postcard perfect. I could stand on my toes and peer over the current and the cattails and see the whole town spread before me. Green-shuttered houses. The cobblestone square. The church spire. The boarding school.
But I don’t.
I crave the illusion of solitude.”
Drew is ten years old and one of the best tennis players his club has seen for a long while. When he snaps after losing a match and breaks the other boys jaw in a deliberate, malicious attack, he has to pay to restore his reputation. That takes a long time and even in the summer after he is still facing the consequences. After a summer at his grandparents, where strange things happen that he can’t understand, he is involved in something so big it almost engulfs him.
Win is 16, a lonely quiet boy at a boarding school in Vermont. He used to have a roommate but he moved out after a something got between them. Lex still looks out for Win from afar, but when Jordan, a junior transfer, turns up and tries to befriend Win he is bemused as to why someone even wants to talk to him. Win refuses to get close to her, or anyone in the fear that the wolf inside him will escape and ruin everything.
Oh wow, Charm and Strange…. you are, well, strange. But I loved you.
The story is told in a kind of duel narrative. These narratives are two sides of the same coin. Andrew Winston Winters is one person in body but in mind he is Drew, the ten year old boy who is a part of something he cannot understand, and he is Win, the 16 year old boy who reflects on everything that has happened in the only way he can. I thought that the story was actually supernatural, there is a lot of reference to wolves and the wolf inside Win, when he is both Drew and Win he talks about ‘changing’ but its not really about that, its about something entirely different.
I had no clue what was going on for the majority of this book, it twisted and turned so that when I thought one thing was happening something else became a possibility, but that kept me on my toes and kept me wanting more. I have a habit of not reading the blurb of a book and just jumping straight in so at first I wasn’t even sure that the two characters were the same person, six years apart. I loved working everything out for myself though and this book was entirely unpredictable even if you had read the blurb.
The characters felt real, I could envisage each and every one of them and I loved the relationships forgedin both narratives. When Andrew was Drew he had the closeness to his sister and his brother, when his brother was alone. I loved how much love he had for his sister but he was a strange child even then and found it hard to take to other people, or find common ground with them. I found the relationship with the father a bit strange and their mother seemed so distant that she wasn’t really there throughout most of the book. s Win there was only really relationships forged with a couple of people. You could tell that the chemistry teacher and Win got along once upon a time but something had changed and made Win become more distant. Also Lex teased and berated him a lot but there was something between them too, Lex was the one person who truly knew Win but I think that scared Win more than anything else. The loyalty that Lex and Jordan showed to Win towards the end though was beautiful and I think that could have been my favourite part of the book.
I honestly loved this book, it was very strange and took some getting used to. You don’t find out the truth about everything until right at the end but it never gets boring. Stephanie Kuehn did a fantastic job of writing this in a way that keeps you guessing and I will definitely be on the look out for more from her.
Charm and Strange was published on June 6th by Egmont. My copy was sent unsolicited from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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