Saturday, 5 April 2014

Review: Charm & Strange

Charm & Strange
Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The best thing I have read so far this year. I can't fully explain what I liked about it so much, which is surely a good thing: it goes beyond analysis. But here's a few things I liked about it. The writing is clear and concise, and yet incredibly evocative: I could picture scenes and moments so clearly from just a few impressionistic details. Kuehn's writing allows you to inhabit moments in the story; you can use your imagination to get into what's happening in that moment, rather than having it all described to you in minute detail. As well as the quality of the writing, the ideas are interesting and original, and the plotting is very simple but very effective. It is not at all what I was expecting, but something far darker and more visceral and convincing, and at the same time more restrained. It's impossible to discuss the plot without giving the game away: the book leads you down the wrong path for a while, and that sort of mystery usually annoys me, but in this case it didn't (I think because of a perfect use of present tense), and I was just so impressed!

The only shame is the way the book's been presented. I got the UK Electric Monkey edition with the pencil-drawing-wolf and the quotes from the book, which makes the book seem to be for a much younger audience than I think would appreciate it. Also, the little tagged-on "If you like 'The Fault in our Stars' by John Green, you'll love this." is rubbish. Sure, I did like 'The Fault in our Stars', and I did love this, but that's not to say that they're at all alike, just that they're both good books. 'Charm & Strange' is in its way far more engaging and intelligent. Just don't expect it to have the wit or the romance or the plot arc of 'The Fault in our Stars', because it's just a completely different sort of book.

I think this would be enjoyed by teen and young adult readers upwards, and for any adult readers who are enjoying the current wave of mental health themed stuff (of which 'The Shock of the Fall' and 'We Used to be Kings' I've read and thought very good), this is really a must.

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