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Author Archives: Stephanie Kuehn

like charm and strange



I’ve always been very outspoken (to anyone who might be willing to listen) about the huge influence Robert Cormier has had on me: not just in my development as a writer, but as a person. The bleakness and honesty in his books meant a lot to me during a time in my life that felt very bleak and not all that honest. Now that I’m grown and have some distance from my adolescence, I’m not sure his worldview and mine completely line up, but I’ve carried many of his ideas and questions with me as I’ve drifted into adulthood.

For these reasons, I’d like to think Charm & Strange could sit comfortably on a shelf with Mr. Cormier’s work, maybe wedged somewhere in between dog-eared copies of FadeThe Chocolate War, and I am the Cheese. My main character is definitely a Cormier-esque type of protagonist. He’s a white teenage boy—with all the social privilege afforded that demographic—who, for circumstances not in his control, experiences himself as powerless.

As for more recent comparable titles, I’d say Charm & Strange shares some of its structure and themes with the following works:

Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King: For the blurring of internal and external worlds.

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta: For the entwined narrative structure and close, close voice.

The Freak Observer by Blythe Woolston: For a look at grief complicated by trauma.

Nothing by Janne Teller: For telling the miserable, existentialist truth.

Little Red Riding Hood: For that big bad wolf…

Okay, that last one’s not recent. But it is relevant.

Thanks so much for stopping by. We’ve still got a book giveaway going on through the end of the week, so please check it out!


Stephanie Kuehn & The Inspiration for CHARM & STRANGE


Not every boy thrown to the wolves becomes a hero. –John Barth


Years ago I read a newspaper article about a young baseball player who, after his team had lost a game, impulsively hit one of his opponents, knocking him to the ground, causing a brain injury and killing him instantly.

The news coverage of this tragedy framed it in all sorts of different ways: the pressure of youth sports, the psychology of losing, violence in the media, and so on. But the event planted a different seed of reflection in my mind, one that—along with the sentiment of the Barth quote above—would eventually become the inspiration for Charm & Strange. That is, if every action is an expression of something, then what are acts of childhood violence trying to tell us?

And are we listening?

This is some of what I wanted to explore when I sat down to write Charm & Strange— as well as other questions having to do with existential terror, isolation, and the experiences of trauma and grief. It’s the story of a boy who knows he’s more wolf than hero, and it’s the story of a family full of secrets and frailties and far too much darkness. But beyond that, what I wanted to tell was a story about listening, even when you don’t understand the language. And the transformative power of being heard.




Stephanie Kuehn

stephanie kuehn nameplate


Andrew Winston Winters is at war with himself.

He’s part Win, the lonely teenager exiled to a remote Vermont boarding school in the wake of a family tragedy. The guy who shuts all his classmates out, no matter the cost.

But he’s also part Drew, the angry young boy with violent impulses that control him. The boy who spent a fateful summer with his brother and teenage cousins, only to endure a family secret so painful it led three children to do the unthinkable.

Over the course of one night, while stuck at a party deep in the New England woods, Andrew battles the pain of his past and the isolation of his present. Before the sun rises, he’ll either surrender his sanity to the wild thoughts inside his mind or learn that surviving can sometimes mean more than not dying.

Mark as to-read on GOODREADS.


Stephanie Kuehn holds degrees in linguistics and sport psychology, and is currently working toward a doctorate in clinical psychology. She lives in Northern California with her husband, their three children, and a joyful abundance of pets. When she’s not writing, she’s running. Or reading. Or dreaming…

You can visit Stephanie at She can also be found blogging over at the YA Highway or skulking around the murky depths of Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook.

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