The Stars at Oktober Bend was a lovely book with beautiful writing and a moving storyline.
Alice Nightingale writes about how it is to have perfect thoughts that come out in slow, slurred speech. She imagines herself stepping into clear midair with wings made of words and feathers.
Manny James runs at night, trying to escape memories of his past. He sees Alice on the roof of her river-house, looking like a figurehead on a ship sailing through the stars. He has a poem in his pocket and he knows the words by heart. He is sure that girl has written them.
Alice longs to be everything a fifteen-year-old girl can be. And when she sees the running boy she is anchored to the earth by her desire to see him again.
A beautiful, heartfelt novel about transcending past troubles and learning to live with trust and hope.
- I loved the writing in this book, which really drew me in and immersed me; I wanted to keep reading and savour every word. Alice’s point of view is also interspersed with free verse poetry, which becomes important in the story, and were beautiful to read. The lack of capitalisation and liberties with punctuation/grammar do take a bit of getting used to, but were used well. In both her and Manny’s point of view, it’s reflective of their circumstances; with Alice’s acquired brain injury making speech difficult, and Manny’s simple English due to lack of familiarity with the language.
- The flow of the story was also well-done. There were smooth transitions between both Alice’s and Manny’s points of view, and there was nice use of suspense at different points in the storyline
- The diversity in the story (Alice’s acquired brain injury as mentioned above; Manny suffered and watched horrors in Sierra Leone, where he was originally from) was respectfully depicted, from what I saw
- Some parts of the narrative were unclear and I had to re-read sections to understand what was going on. Obviously part of this was due to the unconventional writing in conveying such a lyrical voice for both characters, which I didn’t mind adapting to; but I still feel more could have been done to minimise confusion.
- Some of the side characters weren’t well-depicted. I loved Joey, Alice’s brother, and their relationship, as well as their grandmother; however, Tilda and Hamish O’Leary could’ve had better characterisation.
The above would usually be bigger issues if it wasn’t for how powerful everything else about the story was. Overall, it’s a book I highly recommend.
Further recommendations: A Small Free Kiss in the Dark by Glenda Millard, May B. by Caroline Starr Rose, Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson