Review: The Stars at Oktober Bend by Glenda Millard

The Stars at Oktober Bend | FRONT COVER (20 October 2015)

Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Release date: January 27, 2016
Format: Paperback (RRP: $19.99)
Source: Publisher
Pages: 288
Goodreads || Book Depository || Booktopia

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 the desire to see him again.


45 stars

How do I even begin to find the words to express how much this book meant to me? This was an absolutely beautiful story about overcoming adversity and living with hope and courage. It’s a simple story that is just done so right.

This novel follows 15 year old Alice, who struggles with her speech after a traumatic incident that happened when she was 12. As a result, she doesn’t go to school and spends most of her time writing poetry, fly tying and trying not to do anything that will lead to seizures. She starts leaving her poetry and ‘perfect thoughts’ in public places for people to read, but nobody has ever taken her seriously until Manny James stumbles upon her poem at the railway station. Manny was a child soldier in Sierra Leone. He’s adjusting to his new life and new family in Australia, after losing his family, and Alice and her poetry quickly becomes his salvation.

The first thing you’ll notice when you flip open this book is the writing style. This book has a very unique writing style, with strange syntax and punctuation. Alice ‘s voice is incredibly unique and can take a while to get used to. I had a little bit of a hard time getting my mind to focus during the first couple of pages, but I quickly realised how lyrical and beautiful the writing was. Because of this, I decided to read the entire book aloud and it really helped me to get into the writing style and Alice’s voice very quickly. The weird syntax and lack of capital letters in the writing really reflected Alice’s character and I really appreciated the way the book was written. This novel is written partly in prose and partly in verse. Sometimes it switches without warning and others in a more logical manner. I adored this format and thought it added a lot to the story. It made Alice’s voice truly her own. We also get to read from Manny’s perspective in this book, and his chapters were written much more traditionally, in prose and with proper syntax and punctuation. I thought his voice also reflected who he was as a person and I loved being able to read from his point of view as well.

for some
twelve is a nice number
but i
am alice
fifteen times

All of the characters in this book were outstanding but my favourite was definitely Alice. She went through a traumatic experience that nobody should have to go through, and to some people around her, she will always be the 12 year old girl she was before the incident. But even though her life changed when she was 12, and some of her abilities are stunted, she keeps trying to grow and prove that she’s more than what happened to her at 12. Her strength moved me to tears and her bravery just left me speechless.

he had listened to fragments of my stumbling speech and begged me to speak again. his wanting to listen made no difference to my speech. it was no clearer, quicker or more fluent. my words did not sound like birdsong or poetry, but manny watched me and waited while i spoke. asked me when he didn’t understand.

My favourite aspect of this book were the relationships. The way that the characters cared for and cared about each other was just amazing to witness. The relationship between Alice and Manny transcended just teenage romance. The discovery of somebody who you can share your darkest secrets with, and somebody who will listen and try to understand you is just the most heartwarming thing, and I felt so lucky to be able to read about Alice and Manny finding each other the way that they did. Their connection and attraction did feel a little bit too instant, but I didn’t even care because they’re absolutely made for each other.

While the relationship between Alice and Manny was stellar, it was Alice’s relationship with her brother, Joey, that was my favourite. To see Joey, a young teenager himself, be so protective and supportive towards Alice… I just could not stop crying. To see him take on the role of being the man of the house, and look after Alice and his ailing grandmother, I really felt for him. His love for his family and for Alice was so evident from the first chapter and I wished that I had Joey as my brother.

The plot of this book is simple. The author doesn’t try to do anything complicated and, instead, focuses on and explores the strength of the characters and the bonds between them. I really appreciated the simplicity of it and the way the author was still able to give me a good case of the feels. This was a fantastic new Australian YA novel that I cannot recommend highly enough.


16 thoughts on “Review: The Stars at Oktober Bend by Glenda Millard

  1. Lois says:

    You always introduce me to new and exciting books so I’m blaming you for this never ending to be read pile haha. 😛 I love the sound of this book. It looks like the type of book that emphasizes the beauty in the simplicity. Character relationships are always a highlight for me. I just love a good brother/sister dynamic. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jenna @ Reading with Jenna says:

      The relationships in this book are just perfection! The entire book is just beautiful to read and I had such a wonderful reading experience. And now that Book Depository is starting to ship some titles from Australia, it means that more people can get their hands on this wonderful Aus YA release!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Summer @ Xingsings says:

    Oh gosh, this book sounds like a hidden gem. Wonderful characters and relationships is what hooks me. I haven’t heard of this one prior to your review, but I’m adding it to my TBR. And, as always, thinks for sharing the review! (But when will we get your stellar review for The Weight of Feathers?)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jenna @ Reading with Jenna says:

      This one is beautiful!! It’s an Aussie YA release so you might have some trouble finding it. But Book Depository recently expanded to Australia and will have more Aussie titles available on their site. *nudge nudge*
      Hmm… I’m still deciding if I want to put up a review of The Weight of Feathers. I read a string of books last week when I was in reading mood, and The Weight of Feathers was one of them. So I’m kind of past the point of reviewing it, if you know what I mean? Most of the time, I review as soon as I finish the book… and for this one, the time has kinda passed? I dunno. I might write one anyway because I love Cluck and Lace so much!


  3. Ksenia says:

    Beautiful review, Jenna! I’m curious about the writing style. It sounds perfect for an audiobook. I’ve never read a book in English in verse, though I love verse in Russian. I’m just afraid that I would have problems to get the authors meaning since English is not my first language.


  4. tanazmasaba says:

    I have been dying to read this book because of its beautiful prose but sadly it’s not available in my country 😦 I am glad you loved it! I am looking forward to reading this too as soon as it’s out here.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s