Winner of the William C. Morris Award for best teen book by a new author, Charm & Strange is a book full of mystery that has a twist ending I never saw coming. Andrew Winston Winters used to go by Drew until half of his family died in a horrible tragedy and he was sent away to boarding school. To try to separate himself from the stories of his family in the news, he starts going by Win, short for Winston. It works. No one knows about his past.
Win’s past is way more complicated than just painful memories of his dead siblings. Win also has intense rage that comes out in spurts of violence brought on by things that a well adjusted kid could easily shake off. Win is a sensitive and sad kid. At boarding school he keeps to himself, doesn’t drink like the other kids, is anorexic to make sure he can reach his goal of 6% body fat, which he apparently thinks will make him run faster in track. He’s a control freak. One reason he hates drinking is because he was regularly drugged as a child to keep him from getting carsick. He can’t stand the drowsy feeling of Phenergan, even if it does keep him from puking his brains out.
When a hiker is brutally attacked and killed in the woods behind Win’s school, not just killed, but mauled and partially consumed, Win begins thinking that maybe he killed the hiker in one of his rage induced blackouts. As the next full moon approaches, Win feels something inside of him brewing and he’s finally ready to let it out. He’s afraid he’s going to hurt someone, so he goes off naked and alone to let nature take its course far away from his school. Win is ready for the change.
I know what you’re thinking now, but just wait for the twist! This book not only has some pretty realistic and intense violence, but there’s also some uncomfortable sexual situations, so I would only recommend this to mature teens. Without giving too much away, this book has the potential to heal, but also the potential to trigger, so reader beware.
Reviewed by Annica-CLP-West End