Review Detail

5.0 2
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Young Adult Fiction 7832
An incredibly deep, challenging story.
(Updated: September 27, 2014)
Overall rating
 
5.0
Plot
 
5.0
Characters
 
5.0
Writing Style
 
5.0
CHARM & STRANGE is a deserving Morris Award winning novel about family, abuse, and mental illness. It's very well-written and perfectly structured, has fascinating characters, and is really unique in its portrayal of mental illness in teens.

Portrayal of mental illness: In her debut Stephanie Kuehn is a master at showing how mental illness develops over time. With the chapters alternating between the past and the present, we see how Drew changes into Win; we see how his mind changes and how that affects his behavior, thoughts, and actions. I imagine that the author's background in psychology helps with this, but it still isn't easy writing an inside perspective on mental health, and she is the best YA author at doing this thing.

Plot and suspense: So incredibly well done. Chapter alternate between "matter" (the present), and "antimatter" (the past), and this is really the only way to tell this particular story. We get the past from 10 year-old Drew's perspective, and we get the teenage Win's present perspective. In each section, I really had no idea what was going to happen. The suspense was "edge-of-your-seat-thrilling", but that's a good thing. This is not the kind of story you want keeping you up at night, unless you're crying after you finished it. Which may or may not have happened to me. Basically, the whole thing is so very well written.

Characters: One of my favorite things is YA protagonists that we don't immediately love. Stephanie is so good at this. Win is interesting and likable, but he is also really scary and pretty intimidating. I like these complicated main characters, who you're not sure if you can continue to like, who make you think and challenge your expectations. Win's "friends" Lex and Jordan are also very interesting, fully developed characters. They play really important parts in the story, and we know a lot about them, even though they don't actually get a lot of "screen time."

Verdict: This is an incredible, deep, challenging book. Not for the faint of heart or soul. But it will make you stronger, if you pick it up. Highly recommended.
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