The 2014 Winner of the William C. Morris Award
When you've been kept caged in the dark, it's impossible to see the forest for the trees. It's impossible to see anything, really. Not without bars . . .
In Stephanie Kuehn's brilliant debut Charm & Strange, Andrew Winston Winters is at war with himself.
He's part Win, the lonely teenager exiled to a remote Vermont boarding school in the wake of a family tragedy. The guy who shuts all his classmates out, no matter the cost.
He's part Drew, the angry young boy with violent impulses that control him. The boy who spent a fateful, long-ago summer with his brother and teenage cousins, only to endure a secret so monstrous it led three children to do the unthinkable.
Over the course of one night, while stuck at a party deep in the New England woods, Andrew battles both the pain of his past and the isolation of his present.
Before the sun rises, he'll either surrender his sanity to the wild darkness inside his mind or make peace with the most elemental of truths-that choosing to live can mean so much more than not dying.
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.