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The Stars at Oktober Bend

The Stars at Oktober Bend

Glenda Millard

Size: 198 x 128 mm289 PagesISBN: 9781910646151
Publication: August 2, 2016


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'Words, caught me by surprise,' she says, 'took me in their rushing up draught, took me from the page into the clear mid-air.'

The Stars at Oktober Bend is the lyrical story of the strength of the human spirit from a powerful voice in Australian YA. 

A 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 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.

Through her lyrical writing, Glenda reveals that people are always more than they seem. 

Glenda Millard is a highly respected author of books for children of all ages. Her novel A Small Free Kiss in the Dark was the Winner of the 2009 Queensland Premier's Award for young adults and included on the Honour List for the 2012 International Board of Books for Young People. Glenda began to write when her four children became teenagers and now writes full-time, often inspired by the landscapes of Victoria, Australia, where she has lived all her life.


Full Text:
“once upon a time, a boy with no yesterdays asked a girl with no tomorrows for something no one else wanted.”
‘The stars at Oktober Bend’ is a tale about the blossoming romance between Alice and Manny. Alice is stuck in her ‘twelveness’ after an assault left her with a brain injury meaning that she has difficulty getting her words out. When Alice writes though she can communicate beautifully and it is through her poems she finds Manny. 
Manny was once a child soldier in Sierra Leone and watched his family get murdered before his eyes. He now lives with a family in relative comfort and safety but at night he feels the need to run and it is on one of these runs that he first spots Alice.
Initially I found the writing style of Alice’s chapters hard to read because of the lack of capital letters and the way it is written like a stream of consciousness. However, I soon found myself lost in Alice’s world. 
The opening line of the book introduces Alice in the best possible way, “i am the girl manny loves, the girl who writes our story in the book of flying. i am alice.”
Alice lives her ailing grandmother and her protective younger brother Joey. Her mother has gone, her father is dead and her grandfather is in jail. They tread a delicate balance between looking after each other and trying to stop others discovering quite how precarious their living conditions are. 
“daddy’s dead
mother’s missing
sister’s crazy
grandma’s sick
grandpa’s jailed.”
Alice’s “electrics went haywire” when she was 12 after she was assaulted. “it wasn’t my fault, they warn you about everything else – don’t take lollies from strangers, don’t get in cars with people you don’t know, but they never tell you why not. noone said don’t watch the stars at oktober bend…no one told me there were people who did things like that to children. Now my electrics are wrecked and my words come out weird and doctors say i might stay twelve forever.”
“i remembered words, struggled to speak them, forgot how to arrange them. how to join them on a page.” Alice lies to read anything she can get her hands on, or more accurately anything Joey can get his hands on. “some words happen my heart to thunder in my chest, my electrics hiss and fizz like wetted sherbet in my head. ‘moves’ and ‘make’ and ‘made’. They remind me of when someone forces you to do something, in green paddocks or under the stars at oktober bend or anywhere else.”
Joey steals some paper and ink for her to record her poems and alice names it her ‘book of flying’ because words make her feel like she is flying. In this book she writes her poems or ‘alicisms’ as she calls them. Alice wants to share her words with people in any form she can so she begins leaving her poems in public places. She likes poetry because poems can mean whatever the reader thinks they mean and she doesn’t have to worry about whether people will understand her meaning.
The reader is first introduced to Manny in chapter 9 with a chapter written from his point of view. I liked this because it gave a break from the writing style of Alice’s chapters. The first lines of his chapter read, “I am the running boy, the ones who loves Alice.” 
Manny runs when memories of his former life mean he is unable to sleep despite his comfortable living arrangements with Bull and Louisa James. He runs past a little house on stilts and is captivated when he sees a girl sat in the roof under the stars. 
I loved the way the author provides little morsels of information about Alice and Manny’s past throughout the book rather than all at once. “I had never heard of pansies. Flowers do not grow where landmines are buried.” 
The poem Manny finds is ‘desire’ 
“my desire is 
to be
my soul is filled
with songbirds
but when I open myself to 
see them free
they shit
on my lips.
This poem not only provides an insight into Alice it also creates a depth to Manny’s character in the form of his reaction to it. “I read that poem many times and many times it made me sad. Sad for anon, who had songs that no one understood, and sad because I had no songs left inside me.”
I love the way alice choses to share the story of what happened to her 
<spoiler>two of them crept
like robbers put
their hands over
my mouth
to keep my screams
inside while they did
what they did
to me afterwards
the tall one afraid
I would tell
hurled a rock
overhead then
smashed it down and 
down and 

I felt the author dealt with sensitive issues in a respectful and delicate manner. I loved this book and would definitely recommend it.

This is a hauntingly melancholy book. Alice, a key character, has suffered a head injury and another trauma, a trauma so great both she and her relatives cannot talk about it. Manny James is from Sierra Leone where he has witnessed sights nobody should see.  

The story, told in first person by both characters, chronicles the summer they met and tells of very real dangers they face. I was on edge throughout the book as I feared something more terrible was about to happen. I cannot plot spoil but can tell you that there is a rainbow of hope at the end. Alice’s entries are often written in poetry which gives a lyrical nature to the book. My one complaint about this tale is that Alice feels so insignificant, she never uses capitals. The grammarian in me screams.

I would recommend this book to young people over the age of 14 as rape and genocide are discussed. That said, they are explored in a very tactful manner and focus on the effects of these outrages and do not give a blow by blow description of them.  

Collette Shine  

Millard gets the balance exactly right between literary fiction and a darn good story. Recommended for teens and adults!

It's not in verse but the writing is so lyrical it feels like it. So beautiful.

This was an absolutely beautiful story about overcoming adversity and living with hope and courage.

Some characters tug at your heartstrings immediately. Alice, the heroine of The Stars at Oktober Bend...she has such a strong and shining spirit you hope desperately she will be happy.  

Something told me that this would be a book to savour. And that is exactly what it is...Both Alice and Manny, who each narrate parts of the story, are beautifully drawn characters. Both of them are outsiders and, as more of each of their respective histories is revealed, you find yourself rooting for them as they try to forge a new future together: once upon a time a boy with no yesterdays asked a girl with no tomorrows for something no one else wanted. As well as Alice and Manny's relationship with each other, a number of other relationships are explored in the book; including changes between Alice and her brother Joey, who has been Alice's strongest ally and protector in the years since the attack, as they both begin to let other people into their lives. At some points soulful and searching, at others lyrical and whimsical, Glenda Millard's writing creates characters that are utterly believable and a story that is incredibly moving and ultimately full of hope about the ways in which love - in all its forms - can make the world a better place. the stars at oktober bend is a real triumph and I'll be recommending it to everyone I know.
Youth Libraries Group North West

An absolute tour de force! So beautifully written and with an unforgettable narrative "voice" this is definitely one of the outstanding reads of the year so far.
Joy Court  

Format: Paperback

Size: 198 x 128 mm

289 Pages

Copyright: © 2016

ISBN: 9781910646151

Publication: August 2, 2016

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