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The Stars at Oktober Bend by Glenda Millard

The Stars at Oktober Bend

by Glenda Millard

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Having experienced a traumatic event and crushing head blows when she was 12, Alice has trouble expressing herself verbally, and instead writes poems. She feels stuck at age 12 to the outside world, but inside she is longing to prove to the world that she is more than just what happened to her. Manny, a former child soldier from Sierra Leone, runs to escape the brutalities of his past. He’s trying to adjust to his new family and his new life, but he feels just as broken as Alice. When he finds one of her poems, her words speak to him, and the two forge a connection in spite of their differences and in spite of those who want to beat them down and keep them apart.

This book and the characters will haunt you long after you finish the last page. Alice’s words are insightful and revealing in their simplistic beauty. The protective love that envelopes Alice, her brother Joey, their grandmother and grandfather, and their dog Bear, is enviable, and when Alice’s full story is revealed, readers feel that same sense of protection and love toward all of them. The ending will leave you breathless, but filled with hope that love and courage can heal all.

Highly recommended for gr. 9-12. ( )
  SWONroyal | Sep 2, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This review and many more like it are available at Read Till Dawn.

I'm struggling to review The Stars at Oktober Bend.

I really don't know what to say. Is it a good book? I think so. Did I personally enjoy it? Not all that much. Can I even remember half of what happens? Nope. Does that make me a bad person? Hopefully not.

Basically, it's the sort of meaningful, lyrical, poignant book that we're all supposed to fall head over heels for. Alice's story is tragic and haunting, and Manny's is equally so.

Or at least, it is once we find out what it is. Unfortunately, so much time is taken up with Alice–her muddled narration, her backstory, her vivid memories and those she blocked out–that there isn't nearly as much focus on Manny. We learn that he was a child soldier, that he is traumatized, and that he quickly falls for Alice. And that's almost all the details we get in the entire book.

Perhaps that is the root of my troubles with the book, my apathy toward their relationship. I cared about Alice, but not so much about Manny because I didn't know him. And besides, I was really just so mad at all the people who did wrong by both of them throughout their lives that I struggled to find much to enjoy.

I genuinely do think this is a good book–it's lyrical and meaningful and poignant, and its exploration of Alice's family dynamics in particular is very well-drawn. But the book and I didn't entirely click. If you're interested (and won't be triggered by mentions of rape), then, by all means, do give it a go. Hopefully you will be able to get more out of it than I did.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
  Jaina_Rose | Aug 28, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
While difficult to read at first, due to the lack of capitalization in Alice's chapters, I found that after the introduction of Manny's regularly written chapters, I found the reading smoother.
A poetic story about a very hurt girl who is fifteen in years, but stuck at twelve in ability. Twelve is when the bad thing happened and her head got hurt.
But Alice is able to write and write she does. She leaves little poems on paper scraps around town. She goes to the roof of her house on stilts near the river and tosses her words out to the world. She creates beautiful fishing flies and her brother, Joey, sells them to a man in town. Joey takes care of Alice and their grandmother. Bear, Alice's dog, protects her at all times.
One day Manny is out running, the only way he can escape his memories, and he sees Alice on her roof. Then he finds one of her poems. Their budding friendship coincides with Joey's attraction to Tilda, a girl in town.
The four bond and for the first time, Joey and Alice bring friends home.
A touching coming of age story. ( )
  aimless22 | Apr 13, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
When we meet Alice, she is the product of a broken (but loving) family and the victim of a shocking crime. Brain-damaged and unable to speak properly, she nonetheless finds her voice in poetry and art, and discovers her own self-worth upon seeing it reflected in the eyes of a sensitive boy named Manny. Millard’s writing style is lyrical and lovely, and lulls you into a poetic reading experience; however, the ending was a bit jarring as the book went from being relatively plot-less and character-driven to becoming an action-packed adventure story with a completely different tone from earlier. Ultimately, amidst some very bleak and tragic moments, hope shines brightly in this story and stands as a conquering force against the dark.
  Bitter_Grace | Mar 27, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This book is very unusual. The chapters are interspersed with poems, and there are two central characters, Alice and Many. They are both broken in their own way, although both live in families that have been patched together due to the circumstances of their lives.

Alice had a hard time using words to communicate but has a gift with words and small tokens that are bits of poetry strewn about her world. She lives with her brother and grandmother and avoids getting close to strangers. She trusts her brother to shelter and protect her from the world and the hurts it so often contains. Alice is fifteen, but childlike in many ways.

Manny is sixteen and was a soldier once. He lives with Bull and Louis James, who seem to want the best for him, a chance to be like others his age.When a child has once been a soldier, that seems like an impossible dream.

These two came together because of her little poems, the thoughts she left scattered behind her like crumbs. It seems that perhaps they are meant for each other, but only time will tell.

This is a lovely little book. In another lifetime, or maybe earlier in this one, before the world became jagged and dark, I think I would have loved this book. These days, it made me impatient and even angry. You should try it though ~ especially if your life has sosfter edges. ( )
  mckait | Mar 2, 2018 |
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"Alice is fifteen, with hair as red as fire and skin as pale as bone. Something inside Alice is broken: she remembers words but struggles to speak them. Still, Alice knows words are for sharing, so she pins them to posters in tucked-away places: railway waiting rooms, fish-and-chip shops, quiet corners. Manny is sixteen, with a scar from shoulder to elbow. Something inside Manny is broken: he was once a child soldier, forced to do terrible, violent things. But in a new land with new people who will care for him, he spends time exploring on foot. And in his pocket, he carries a poem he scooped up. And he knows the words by heart. Their relationship brings the beginning of love and healing, which for Manny and Alice, perhaps, will be enough." -- Jacket.… (more)

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