"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Review: Charm and Strange by Stephanie Kuehn

Charm and Strange by Stephanie Kuehn won the Morris Award, Which honors a book written for young adult audiences by an author previously unpublished. I read the book as part of my own reading challenge to read all the ALA Youth Services Award books.

The ALA News page describes the book and explains why it was the winner:
     Drew, aka “Win,” has been isolated at boarding school since age 12. While he outwardly excels, a horrific secret pushes him toward madness. With the help of friends, can he conquer the beast within? Win’s rawness and vulnerability illuminate the teen experience in ways both unflinchingly honest and frighteningly familiar.
     'Kuehn’s use of physics and emotion, drama and misdirection creates a dark and moody journey. This story resonates with every read,' said Morris Award Chair Dorcas Wong. 
In chapters that alternate between matter (present day) and anti-matter (the past) the reader gets small glimpses into what makes Drew/Win tick. But nothing is clear. Most glimpses just bring more questions forward. Why is he so angry, and at such a young age?  What happened to his family and what role did he play in the event? Why doesn't he eat? And why hasn't he outgrown his motion sickness? Why can't he get along with his roommates? Is he going mad or is this another supernatural story? Little by little each question is answered even as more questions appear. Fortunately the book ends on a note of hope, one that that leaves the reader with a sense that Win will discover some of the answers that he needs to move forward.

I'm a bit dense so I missed all the physics references and didn't really understand the title of the book until I read another review where it was explained that both charm and strange are types of quarks. Don't ask me to explain quarks, but I do know they have something to do with physics. But now that I think about it, the story is explained by physics or perhaps, more correctly, Win thinks he is plagued by conditions which only physics could explain. Either way, the story didn't suffer because I missed all this as I read it.

This is a book which gives the reader a lot to think about. I read it fast, finishing it in one day, because I HAD to know what was going to happen next. I hope my teen readers will be as anxious to read consume it as I did. It should be particularly popular with students who like books with a psychological aspect to them.

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