A Tale of Dark Family Secrets

Cover of Charm & Strange by Stephanie KuehnCharm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2013.

“Because blood is blood, and every family has its own force.
Its own flavor.
Its own charm and strange.”

Win is a young man, sent to boarding school in Vermont after a family tragedy. He keeps that past hidden and pushes away everyone who might become a friend. He has a secret.  He knows there is a darkness inside him. But some things are too painful to remember, and he may be keeping secrets even from himself. Until a fateful night and a party when he is forced to face his demons.

This is a difficult book to summarize without giving away too much of the story. It is told in alternating chapters, switching between the present and flashbacks to the fateful summer that set him on the path to where he is now. There are some parallels to Girl Child by Tupelo Hassman in terms of abuse and recovery. But this book delves much more deeply into the dark side of the mental and emotional damage caused by that abuse.

This is a painful story, a difficult story. It is a story that will stay with me for a long time. I can’t say that I enjoyed it. It’s not the sort of book you enjoy. But it made me think. I don’t think I would ever have read this book if not for the The Hub’s Morris Challenge. But I’m glad I did.

Warning: As you may suspect of a story about dark family secrets, this book does include accounts of abuse that may be upsetting or triggering for some readers.


About booksnquilts

I'm the Children's Services Coordinator for the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library in Central Virginia.
This entry was posted in Book reviews, YA books and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to A Tale of Dark Family Secrets

  1. Pingback: Don’t Let the Title Fool You | Writing 'Bout Reading

  2. I am a middle school librarian – grades 6-8. Would this work for 8th graders or is it best left for the high school?

    • booksnquilts says:

      I would be inclined to leave it for high school. It’s a pretty dark depiction of mental illness after child sexual abuse. His brother and sister commit suicide after the abuse. His guilt from not joining them compounds his mental instability.

      • Thanks for the feedback. I will borrow from the public library for myself – I adopted a teenager that will forever struggle with her past – but leave it off the shelves here. The line is always a difficult one to walk. There is such a disparity between the maturity levels in 6th grade and 8th grade, and I find that by this time in the school year, my 8th graders are looking for more. I purchase some teasers that I limit to 8th grade checkout or parental permission for 6th and 7th, but with a limited budget, making discerning choices is a challenge.

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