Charm And Strange (Egmont UK, £7.99) is one of those books that truly merits the old-fashioned term “page-turner”.
Stephanie Kuehn’s psychological thriller centres on the troubled character of Andrew Winston Winters.
The plot keeps the reader hanging on, eager to get to the heart of the matter amidst all manner of hints and suggestions which fully make sense only in the final few pages of this well-crafted debut.
Win is a boy with a secret past, one so awful that he’s been exiled to a remote Vermont boarding school where he appears to be at war not only with himself and many of the people around him.
In the wake of a terrible family tragedy, the lonely teenager struggles to come to terms with what has happened and appears to be on the verge of an otherworldly ‘change’ which is tied in with the forthcoming appearance of a full moon.
Existing alongside the schoolboy Win, in a story that switches between past and present in alternate chapters, is the angry, confused young boy, Drew.
He is prone to violent impulses over which he has no control. Things come to a head during a fateful summer spent with his older brother and teenage cousins.
Over the course of a night, while stuck at a party deep in the New England woods, Andrew battles both the pain of his past and the isolation of his present. Two chalk and cheese fellow students appear ready to help - but will he let them?
Before the sun rises, he’ll either surrender his sanity to the wild darkness inside his mind or make peace with the most elemental of truths - that choosing to live can mean so much more than not dying.
The themes sensitively and thought-provokingly explored in Charm And Strange are powerful and at times heart-breaking. Compellingly written, the story will stay with you for some time.