I have exactly 8 emotions about this book and all of them are INTENSE CONFUSION. I wanted to read The Stars At Oktober Bend by Glenda Millard for sooo many reasons, like a) it’s about a girl who struggles to speak, b) there’s a boy who likes to run, c) they misspelled “October” and I want to know why, and d) I’m trying to read more contemporaries because while I adore dragons…I need to extend myself a little, right?! RIGHT.
But it’s written without capitals, and all whimsically poetic and lyrical and I found it excruciatingly hard to follow. Back when I was a young thing and in school, I used to cry over my poetry assignments because I NEVER GOT IT, OKAY?!? (Just say it how it is peoples, enough with the metaphors, ARGGGGH.)
For instance, this is how the book is written:
but old charlie’s words trickled down into the soft pink labyrinths of my unlistening ears. stayed there till i was fifteen, when the want to remember rose up like cool, green sap inside me. hard to know if what i remembered was dreams or truth, wishes or lies. i never dreamed about april. only the velvet lined case. dreamed there had been a child there. was i the child or was the child mine?
Not even the faintest.
(And I really like punctuation and capitals. I miss it.)
So reading a 300-page book that I didn’t know what was going on was tedious and hard and NOT enjoyable.
This Is What I Think (??) The Story Contains:
- Alice is 15 but when she was 12 she had a terrible accident that gave her brain damage. What was the accident? Dude, I don’t know.
- She lives with her dying gran and her brother Joey (Joey is a mountain of adorable caring gorgeousness) and she writes poems and makes art and doesn’t go to school.
- I think she did ballet? Or did Joey do ballet?
- OH BEAR IS A DOG. HAHAHAH. I thought Bear was another brother. But unless her brother has a snout, Bear is probably a dog. (Or an actual bear?)
- Manny James is…I have no idea. I think he came from Sierra Leone and I think he was a child soldier and is recovering from the horror of that. He speaks in very precise English, which I appreciated because it was an insight into his character!
- “Oktober bend” is a bridge. Or maybe a pier. Or maybe a road.
- IT IS NOT A MONTH MISSPELLED. I REPEAT. NOT THE MONTH.
- Alice’s grandfather is in jail for…hmmm. Something.
- Bad boys want to beat up Joey and Alice.
- There is a flood.
- MAAAAYBE TO EVERYTHING ON THIS LIST.
THAT ALL SAYING: I appreciate that the book is beautiful. I appreciate that it’s by a girl who struggles to put words together. These kind of stories NEED to be told. And all the other reviews I’ve read have giving this all the stars (har har, because…you know…stars in the title?) they clearly and adored it. So know this: I’m definitely an uneducated pineapple and in the minority in my dislike. My fault. Probably not the book’s.
I’m a reader who likes concrete facts and isn’t left reading-between-the-lines because I suck at that. I honestly can’t say what the conclusion of this book is…whether Alice had a happy ending or not. I DON’T KNOW. (Although a helpful Goodreads friend did give me a rough outline! It’s in the comments of my Goodreads review. DON’T READ IT IF YOU DON’T WANT SPOILERS.)
And I will definitely say that this book WINS for diversity representation. Manny is African and Alice has a mental disability. And it’s an Australian book so HUZZAH for homegrown literature. #AustralianAndProud
So I’ll just be over here, smiling nervously while I clutch this book and pretend I understood it.
THANK YOU TO ALLEN & UNWIN FOR THE REVIEW-COPY. The Stars At Oktober Bend by Glenda Millard was published February, 2016.
A powerful, captivating story about Alice, who is reaching out to express herself through her beautiful-broken words, and Manny who is running to escape his past. When they meet they find the tender beginnings of love and healing.
Alice is fifteen, with hair as red as fire and skin as pale as bone, but something inside her is broken. She has acquired brain injury, the result of an assault, and her words come out slow and slurred. But when she writes, heartwords fly from her pen. She writes poems to express the words she can’t say and leaves them in unexpected places around the town.
Manny was once a child soldier. He is sixteen and has lost all his family. He appears to be adapting to his new life in this country, where there is comfort and safety, but at night he runs, barefoot, to escape the memory of his past. When he first sees Alice, she is sitting on the rusty roof of her river-house, looking like a carving on an old-fashioned ship sailing through the stars.
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