Strange and Surprising: ‘Charm and Strange’ by Stephanie Kuehn

After last week’s list of romantic books, this week we’re going in the opposite direction. Charm and Strange is definitely not romantic. It’s dark, mysterious, twisty and pretty upsetting. It’s also pretty amazing. It’s hard to write about Charm and Strange, because you should really know as little as possible about it before you start reading. So if this review is extremely vague…well, sorry. It’s for your own good!

The book immediately gets points for being set at a boarding school, just like all the best books are. We follow Win, an angry, tortured student, through two timelines. One is the present, where he’s at school with his roommate Lex, the new girl Jordan and a bunch of other students he just wants to avoid. And the other is the past, where he grows up alongside his older brother Keith and his younger sister Siobhan. As the present-day narrative hints at the events of the past, we get to see them play out in bits and pieces.

If it all sounds a little confusing…well, it is. But it’s supposed to be. Win is confused about what’s going on in his life, and he’s not exactly forthcoming with details, so we muddle through the confusion with him. Win faces problems in the present, but it’s what happens in the past that really clues us in to what’s actually going on.

Without giving too much away, I can tell you that the ending of the book really shocked me. Charm and Strange not only has a surprising ending, but it also manages to convince you it’s an entirely different kind of book than it really is, which is no small feat. And Stephanie Kuehn’s writing is gorgeous and lyrical. Win comes off as an angry, sometimes-unlikeable dude, but you still root for him because you know there’s a lot going on under the surface.

While there might not be any romance or kissing in Charm and Strange, it still gets the Young Adult Education seal of approval! It’s a dark and creepy book that also has the potential to really shock you.


-If you loved Charm and Strange, be sure to check out E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars when it comes out this year. I had the chance to read an advance copy (one of the perks of being a book blogger), and it has a similar confusing, mysterious narrative with a shocking ending.

-Stephanie Kuehn has a new book coming out in June. Complicit sounds just as amazing as Charm and Strange!

-In addition to being a badass author, Amazon tells me that Stephanie Kuehn “holds degrees in linguistics and sport psychology, and is currently working toward a doctorate in clinical psychology.” I’m officially in awe of her.

-You can check out Stephanie’s website here.

What about you guys? Did you love Charm and Strange, too? Let me know in the comments! And, as always, I love to hear your suggestions for books you’d like to see featured in Young Adult Education. Leave a comment, email me at [email protected], or find me on Twitter @KerryAnn.