What do you look for in a story? Is it the characters Rainbow Rowell has created in Eleanor & Park or does the appeal come from a page turner like Stephanie Kuehn’s Charm & Strange that keeps you reading long past your bedtime?
Yesterday morning I was very excited to wake up to find new clips from an upcoming movie I am very anxious to see. But before I could watch these new clips, my coworker and I had a great discussion about spoilers, whether they come from a trailer/review sharing all the best parts or even just being told a twist exists. We discussed how these things can completely change the experience for you. For example, when telling a friend to read Gone Girl, I talked up the appeal of this big twist which then ruined that moment for her.
Are you wondering if there is a point to be found here? I promise there is. Charm & Strange is one of those books in which it is hard to describe the story without giving away major plot points and twists. Some descriptions of this book can be misleading, there is a lot of talk of wolves and some have even labeled it as paranormal. Charm & Strange is more than that; it is a psychological story that allows the back story of the main character, Win, to slowly build while also watching how it is affecting his daily life. The author takes advantage of alternating timelines, a few science facts, and a bit of magic realism to pull this story together and keep you wondering what the truth is behind the tragedies of Win’s life.
Charm & Strange will stay with you and is a title you will want to discuss with others.
I feel differently about Eleanor & Park. It’s been a year since I initially read E&P and I decided to read it again for this tournament because the story didn’t stay with me. I remember the 80s aspect (who doesn’t love a good mix tape) and the love story. The 1980s setting is a large appeal of the novel but isn’t vital to the telling of their story; it is more about who Eleanor and Park and their story. Rainbow Rowell is coming off a great year with 2 bestselling novels and a Printz honor for this title.
The characters in these novels all face major issues and while it is easier to root for the love story, it is hard to ignore the struggles of Win’s life. In the end, it came down to the impact of the story and how the characters stayed with me after it was all over.
WINNER: Charm & Strange