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The Social Potato Reviews

Reviews, news, and giveaways. Blog is http://thesocialpotato.maryfaye.net

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Charm & Strange - Stephanie Kuehn Man, what a strange, yet meaningful and compelling book. This gave my heart backflips, made my brain shut down, blown my mind to smithereens... as in, wow. Just wow. I'm not sure this is going to be everybody's cuppa, as the book was written in a way that reaches out to those who are patient enough to get through the initial confusion, the abstraction, and the snail-like pace to truly understand and get the story. But damn, stick to it and you'll find the journey to the end fulfilling yet also so, so heartbreaking. Long after I finished this book, I was still thinking about it — what the ending and the story as a whole really meant, pushing me into a whirlwind of emotions that I just can't describe. There are some books out there that are so good but just leave you utterly speechless. This is one of them.

I won't be talking about the story too much, because as other reviews have said, giving even just a tiny bit risk spoiling the tale in its entirety. The brilliance of this book comes from the understanding and putting together of the small pieces left for us to complete. The magic is scattered throughout the pages, but it's in the explosive yet also subtle ending that you kind of assemble everything together to paint the bigger picture. We follow a troubled teenage boy who believes he may be a wolf. That he may be the one attacking the students who go out late at night. We eventually read somewhat fragmented flashbacks, getting glimpses of his childhood, a stage of his life where everything wasn't what they first seemed. We meet his grandparents, his cousins, his older brother, his younger sister, and his parents. We get to know his story and understand him better - his experiences, his insecurities, his elusiveness. And they are all oh so, so scary and saddening.

What I loved most about this book was how Kuehn really made it work with her hypnotizing writing, because honestly, it's NOT easy to formulate such a painful, traumatic tale, alternating between the past and the present AND making the reader on their toes to the very last page. There really is no definite or linear plot here. If you're looking for a book with dwarves, elves, magic, and what have you, this isn't it, but that doesn't make this book less any surreal and magical in its own way. The author has this ability to really set up the atmosphere right - full of suspense and sadness, full of pain and anger, and yet, full of promise as well. I can't describe it, really. All I can say is she successfully made my heart pound, made me tearducts dry from crying, and made me wonder and feel for and wonder again about the main character. These are things that can only be done when you really talk and connect to your readers through your words.

My first book from Kuehn and she delivered and executed this explosive, enthralling, and heart-rending story with a big bang. I'm definitely a follower from now on.