Stephanie Kuehn’s Charm and Strange was a dark, twisty psychological thriller about a boy at war with himself and the revelations he eventually discovers about his life. Her new book, Complicit, is in the same vein. . . except that it gets even more intense, something I didn’t even think was possible. If you liked Charm and Strange, you’ll love Complicit.
Jamie and his sister Cate were adopted as children after their mother died under somewhat mysterious circumstances. Things with their new family, the Henrys, go pretty well at first. That is, until Cate starts acting out. Eventually, she ends up going to jail for setting a horse barn on fire (and killing a bunch of horses and seriously injuring Jamie’s best friend’s girlfriend). Jamie’s life without Cate is pretty quiet, that is, until she gets out of prison.
Suddenly, Cate’s calling him all the time, leaving him weird voicemails and always knowing where he is. This definitely complicates Jamie’s life, and not just because creepy voice mails and a little stalking tend to get in the way of things. Cate’s presence stresses him out so much that his hands start going numb and he passes out periodically. This makes it pretty hard to get a relationship going with Jenny, the girl he really likes. I mean, can you imagine if you were dating someone and they kept passing out? It would be concerning at best.
Jenny, however, must really like Jamie because she’s totally game to try figuring out the mystery of his past and uncovering why Cate’s still after him. In fact, Jamie and Jenny even visit the home where his mom died in their quest for the truth. If I were dating a guy and he was like, “I know we’ve only been together for a little while, but would you like to take a drive? You know, to the house where a close relative was possibly murdered?” I would probably be like, “Maybe we should go get a hamburger.”
As Jamie inches closer and closer to uncovering the truth, you start to figure it out along with him. And that’s where things really get good. The less you know about this book, the better (try to avoid reading blurbs!), but it’s still good even if you figure out what’s going on. If you’re familiar with the work of Sophocles, you can probably figure out where the plot is going about halfway through the book.
Reading Complicit reminded me of being a teenager and reading books by Lois Duncan, Caroline B. Cooney, and Stephen King. As dark as it was, it was also just fun. The ending (or the whole last half of the book) is a Criss Angel style miiiindfreeeeak (sorry, just trying to write that like Criss Angel says it). This is the kind of book you can’t put down, and the kind of book that makes you scream “WHAT?” even though you’re just reading it by yourself in your living room.
It’s also worth mentioning that author Stephanie Kuehn, according to her bio, has some expertise in the mental health field (she’s working toward a doctorate in clinical psychology). Because of that, the book is full of accurate details of what it’s like to be in therapy or deal with certain ailments. Those details make the book more than just a creepy thriller; they ground Complicit in the real world. I can’t wait to read what Stephanie Kuehn writes next. She’s establishing herself as a great writer of creepy, twisty, dark teen books.
What about you guys? Have you read Complicit or Charm and Strange? Let me know in the comments! And, as always, I love to hear your suggestions for books to feature in Young Adult Education. Leave a comment, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or find me on Twitter @KerryAnn.