I don’t have a lot of favourite books, so oftentimes I think to myself: what will it feel like to decide, yes, this is a book that’s going to be one of my favourites. The last book I called my favourite was The Picture of Dorian Gray, and that was four months prior to reading Charm & Strange. In fact, my favourites usually creep up on me and they sink in slowly – the only exception was Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami, which moved me so much that I read some parts over and over just to relish in the heartbreak. Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn is my latest favourite book, and its impact hit me with such force that I was marveling in its cleverness hours after I finished.
Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn is difficult to review because the book is structured in a way that offers information and clues as you progress through the book. At first you start with nothing, and then you are fed slowly and then the larger picture starts to become clear. Unfortunately, because of this, my review will be somewhat vague, but that’s because I really do want everyone to read this book.
One of Charm & Strange‘s strengths is that it is very compassionate and sensitive of its portrayal of certain characters and their problems. One of the problems with contemporary fiction nowadays is its poor, stereotypical and lazy portrayal of themes that are important to understand with compassion in real life. (Excuse the vagueness, but talking about this book is a spoiler landmine.) Stephanie Kuehn does the latter perfectly (and I think it’s because Kuehn is a clinical psychologist herself), and it was refreshing to read something that was so dark and intense gradually unfold into something humane and uplifting. More so, Kuehn’s use of symbolism was so powerful and raw that, at the end, I was completely amazed by how deep this book was, in retrospect, from start to finish.
Charm & Strange is a book I really enjoyed – so much that I finished it within two days. It is a compelling read and the narrative is so intense that it is difficult to pull away and it demands your attention. I love a book that can do that. I recommend this book for anyone, especially those that have an interest in psychology or teenage fiction, and I think it is an important book as it tackles very difficult, sensitive themes but with so much care and thoughtfulness.
Book Name: Charm & Strange
Author: Stephanie Kuehn
Published by: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2013