“Charm & Strange” Stephanie Kuehn

Rated 5 stars ***** 2013. St. Martin’s Griffin. 213 pp. Winner of the 2014 William C. Morris YA Debut Author Award.

Charm&StrangeWho is Win? Who is Drew? Win is the present, while Drew is the past.

Win changed his name, avoided making friends, exiled himself from his family, and has lived in a boarding school for years. Now, at the age of 16, Drew is catching up to him.

Through flashbacks, readers get insight into Drew’s 9-year-old self. He looks up to his kind 14-year-old brother Keith and loves his 7-year-old fun-loving sister Siobhan. Little by little, readers notice their behavior beginning to change as Drew becomes angry enough to hurt himself and others, while Keith turned bitter and mean, and Siobhan became fearful.

Drew’s anger and confusion is still within Win who believes he has a wolf within himself and will change with the right full moon. Torturing himself with past memories, unable to deal with the past while unable to live in the present, Win is at the end of his rope. It takes the help of two classmates who look beyond their own needs to show Win there is light at the end of his tunnel.

Kuehn’s debut novel is deep, strong, powerful and will make her readers think long and hard. It will be remembered long after its pages are closed, and was an excellent choice for the 2014 Morris Award.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

“Bloodrose” Andrea Cremer

Nightshade series, Book #3. Philomel Books (Penguin). 2012. Hardcover. 406 pp.

With Calla, Shay, and Ren once more united, the task of recovering the rest of the Elemental Cross becomes their main objective. Calla has made it clear she is the only Alpha and will not tolerate Ren or Shay battling over her. She is still torn between loving each, knowing only one can be her true Alpha. Despite the supposed truce, neither Ren nor Shay are still quite able to silence their jealousy towards each other, leading to some interesting outbursts between them.

Adventure after adventure follow Calla, her wolf pack, and the Searchers as they travel the globe seeking the pieces of the cross that will allow them to defeat the Keepers and their evil magic through Shay. The closer they get the more the Keepers fight back, until just one final battle remains. Whoever wins will have control, but neither side is willing to concede defeat. It will have to be a battle to the death.

“Bloodrose” is a thrilling read, filled with battles and adventures, mixed in with wondering what will happen with Calla and her love triangle. Will she choose Ren over Shay, or vice versa? Along with laughter, it also brought tears and will be enjoyed by both male and female high schoolers.

“Wolfsbane” Andrea Cremer

Nightshade series, Book #2. Philomel Books (Penguin). 2011. Hardcover. 390 pp.

When last we left Calla in “Nightshade,” she and Shay had been rescued by the Searchers. In “Wolfsbane,” she learns about the lies taught to her by the Keepers, while Shay finds out he is a secret weapon called The Scion that can be used to permanently end the war between the Keepers and Searchers. As The Scion, the Keepers want his death while the Searchers need his power to win.

As Calla learns more about her history she is wracked with guilt over leaving the Pack behind, wondering if they will ever be able to forgive her. Her heart still battles between her love for Shay, along with jumbled feelings towards Ren. However, she still remains a strong woman, not letting herself be ruled entirely by her emotions. When the time comes for a rescue mission to get her Pack out of prison, Calla sets out to bring all of them, including Ren, to safety. What she doesn’t know is that sometimes we don’t always get what we want.

“Wolfsbane” clears up alot of the mysteries taken for granted in “Nightshade,” while adding a few more of its own. There is still action and adventure but, this time, readers get to experience it from the Searchers point of view instead of from the Keepers. High school fans of “Wolfsbane” will be glad to know that “Bloodrose” is the conclusion to this exciting trilogy. I have a copy of it right here, so stay tuned.

“Nightshade” Andrea Cremer

Nightshade series, Book #1. Philomel Books (Penguin). 2010. Hardcover. 452 pp.

Well, believe it or not, I’m reading another series. At ALA, I picked up an ARC that’s a prelude to the Nightshade series. The ARC sounded interesting, so I figured I’d give the series a whirl. Boy am I glad I did as “Nightshade” had me hooked from the first few pages.

Callie is an Alpha Guardian wolf bound to marry Ren, another Alpha. Once married, their two competing packs will merge into one with the explicit role of following the Keeper’s orders. As Guardians, the wolf packs belong to their Masters, the Keepers, and must obey all their orders and laws. Callie has always followed the rules expected of her, until the day she met a human called Shay. She changes into human form in front of him and saves him from death, both acts punishable by death. Though strangely drawn to him, she didn’t expect to ever see Shay again and was shocked when he turned up at her school.

Charged with protecting him from the Keeper’s enemies, Callie finds herself falling in love with Shay despite her love/hate feelings for Ren. Ren has always been a playboy, but his feelings for Callie intensify as their union date approaches. He is not thrilled when Shay develops feelings for Callie, and there is much posturing and male egos being rubbed the wrong way whenever they’re in each other’s company. Sometimes their snarling behavior was quite humorous.

Callie doesn’t know what to do with the intense feelings she has for both of them, knowing her duty lies with Ren. He makes her feel electrical whenever they’re together, but Shay makes her feel alive and free. As a Guardian, she does not have any say in her life and is not allowed to follow her heart, but the more time she spends with Shay the more rebellious she becomes. She begins to question everything she’s ever known and, soon, she has to decide between them. Her decision could cost her everything she’s held dear, and all she’s ever known.

“Nightshade” is full of romance, adventure, anger, fear, fantasy, wolf pack humor and more. It’s a great read that will be enjoyed by both high school boys and girls. I look forward to reading part 2 “Wolfsbane” to see what happens next in this love triangle.