Reviews for Charm & Strange


Booklist Reviews 2013 June #1
Debut author Kuehn comes out swinging with this confident, unnerving look at a damaged teen struggling with something violent inside of him. The book alternates two time frames. In the first, 16-year-old Win is a withdrawn boarding school student tortured by the "eviscerated," "partly consumed" body of a townie in the woods just off-campus. The second story line follows Win as an anxious 10-year-old first dealing with the suffocating feral feelings that tell him he is harboring a beast. "My wolf is in me," he says, and readers will turn each page warily, expecting a grisly transformation scene. But Kuehn is up to something far more ambitious here. Her prose butts up against important events time and again without granting us an unobstructed view. Until the end, that is, which is more shattering than most readers will be prepared for. Though there is some running in place due to the alternating time lines, Kuehn absolutely nails the voice and keeps us on constant edge regarding exactly what genre of book it is that we're reading. Copyright 2013 Booklist Reviews.

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2014 Spring
This wrenching psychological tale follows sixteen-year-old Win, who believes he's a werewolf. Alternating chapters flash back to Win's childhood as volatile Drew. As the novel progresses, the boundaries between Win's and Drew's personas begin to blur. In tackling brutal issues of abuse head-on, Kuehn affirms that, while Andrew might believe he's a werewolf, the real monster in his life is his abuser.

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Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2013 #6
It's clear early in this taut psychological tale that sixteen-year-old Andrew Winston Winters is not okay: he's estranged from his family, withdrawn from his boarding-school classmates, and a little too curious about the ravaged body of a hiker just discovered in the nearby Vermont woods. In present-tense narration, Win eventually professes that he's a werewolf, condemned to change at the full moon and endanger others--if he hasn't already (did he kill the hiker?). Alternating past-tense chapters flash back to Win's childhood as volatile Drew. Masterfully, each narrative telescopes down to the minute details of one brief but life-changing moment: a single night during an outdoor party for Win; a visit to his grandparents during his tenth summer for Drew. As the novel progresses, the carefully constructed boundaries between Win's and Drew's personas and memories begin to blur. Readers may guess at the terrible reality behind the unreliable narratives before Kuehn's final reveal, but the truth Andrew has been hiding from his classmates, readers, and--most importantly--himself is shattering. In tackling brutal issues of sexual and psychological abuse (and consequent mental illness and suicide) head-on, Kuehn affirms that, while Andrew might believe he's a werewolf, the real monster in his life is his abuser. This wrenching novel is as difficult to put down as it is to read. katie birche Copyright 2013 Horn Book Magazine.

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Kirkus Reviews 2013 May #2
From his opening announcement, "I don't feel the presence of God here," Andrew Winston Winters pulls readers into his story, alternating between his desperate life at an upscale Vermont boarding school and his grim, shadowed Virginia childhood. Present-day Win is smart, competitive and untrusting, estranged from his former roommate, Lex, his one ally and defender. The reasons for Win's self-loathing and keyed-up anxiety won't be fully revealed until story's end. What exactly does he expect to happen during the full moon? Why has he fallen out with Lex? Win's privileged childhood, when he was known as Drew, is another mystery. A violent child prone to motion sickness, his unvarnished self-portrait contains big gaps. What's happened to Keith, Win's gentle older brother, and Siobhan, their beloved younger sister? Kuehn unwinds her story like a cat toy, teasing readers. Only when all the pieces are fit into the puzzle will the mystery at its heart become clear. How the horrific secrets Win's been hoarding have shaped his past and explain his present crisis dominates the narrative. Timing--why he's experiencing his crisis and the choices flowing from it, now--gets less attention, leaving unanswered questions. A high-powered voice rich in charismatic style and emotional intensity illuminates this ambitious debut that doesn't quite live up to its potential. (Fiction. 13 & up) Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 July #2

Kuehn's philosophical and emotionally raw debut probes the murky circumstances surrounding a damaged boy's sense of estrangement. Sixteen-year-old Winston has been isolated at a boarding school in Vermont since age 12, and his violent behavior is becoming increasingly difficult for him to control or remember. After a local is killed in the woods, Win suspects himself and worries about who else he'll hurt--and, more importantly, why? While Win has mastered the arts of intimidation, athleticism, and arrogance, he also hurts himself and continues to suffer the loss of two siblings. As the narrative shifts between the present and Win's past reflections on his childhood, he emerges as a complex, deeply conflicted character. A compassionate transfer student urges him to uncover the truth in his past and to finally seek help. The caustic voice, mysteries surrounding Win, and pervasive sense of dread should have readers racing to the end as Kuehn constructs a persuasive portrait of the lasting effects of trauma--namely, the ways it can result in a profound disassociation from reality. Ages 13-up. Agent: Michael Bourret, Dystel & Goderich Literary Management. (June)

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Publishers Weekly Annex Reviews

Kuehn's philosophical and emotionally raw debut probes the murky circumstances surrounding a damaged boy's sense of estrangement. Sixteen-year-old Winston has been isolated at a boarding school in Vermont since age 12, and his violent behavior is becoming increasingly difficult for him to control or remember. After a local is killed in the woods, Win suspects himself and worries about who else he'll hurt--and, more importantly, why? While Win has mastered the arts of intimidation, athleticism, and arrogance, he also hurts himself and continues to suffer the loss of two siblings. As the narrative shifts between the present and Win's past reflections on his childhood, he emerges as a complex, deeply conflicted character. A compassionate transfer student urges him to uncover the truth in his past and to finally seek help. The caustic voice, mysteries surrounding Win, and pervasive sense of dread should have readers racing to the end as Kuehn constructs a persuasive portrait of the lasting effects of trauma--namely, the ways it can result in a profound disassociation from reality. Ages 13-up. Agent: Michael Bourret, Dystel & Goderich Literary Management. (June)

[Page ]. Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC

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School Library Journal Reviews 2013 October

Gr 8 Up--The dark and twisted heart of this YA novel unfolds slowly, every chapter revealing a hint of the terrible secret that holds Andrew Winston Winters deep in its painful grip. The narrative toggles between the present, as Win, a surly Vermont boarding-school student (chapters titled "matter"), and flashbacks to his past as Drew, the middle child between his sensitive older brother and doting younger sister (chapters titled "antimatter"). Kuehn's descriptions of the boy's violent impulses, confusion, and coping strategies are taut and precise. Although it is hard for readers to get a firm hold on his state of mind and character (since there is so much that he is hiding from himself), the other characters, although painted in broad strokes, are fascinating, and readers will be intrigued to find out more about them and how they relate to Andrew and to one another. There's Lex, Andrew's best friend turned enemy at boarding school; Keith, Andrew's protective older brother; and even Andrew's provocative Boston cousins, who seem to have played a role in the unfolding mystery behind his taciturn veneer. Teens who enjoy their novels with a shovelful of gritty realism will find this enigmatic novel gripping. And the shock of realization at the end, when everything clicks into place, is palpable.--Evelyn Khoo Schwartz, Georgetown Day School, Washington, DC

[Page 126]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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