The Stars at Oktober Bend – Glenda Millard

Standard

oktober

ISBN:9781743315897

Publisher:Allen & Unwin

Imprint:A & U Children

Pub Date:February 2016

Age: 13 – 17

 

I am always in awe of those multi-talented writers who can turn their hand to such a wide range of text types. From picture books to novels for younger readers to such as this for young adults, Glenda Millard is one of those amazing talents.

Alice Nightingale is fifteen but twelve, trapped in an acquired brain injury following a violent and traumatising attack which tore her apart along with her family. Unable to cope with the rigours of ordinary life such as school she is protected and loved by her brother and her ailing grandmother. Isolated and lonely, Alice expresses her perfect thoughts through her broken speech poetry and her creativity by making unique and beautiful fishing flies.

Manny James is a refugee from a dark and turbulent warzone and is desperately trying to put ugly and terrible memories to rest. He lives with a kind older couple who are wise with their understanding of differences and staunch in their support of a sensitive young man.

He is intrigued when, on one of his night time runs, he sees Alice on her rooftop – hair streaming, arms wide – and then when he finds one of her poems he is driven to know her. Alice’s first sight of Manny similarly mesmerises her.

carved from ebony

polished with beeswax

a saint from the book of kells

a warrior

a dream with

embroidered-on hair

neat tight french knots

i wanted to

touch them

read them like Braille

run my fingers along

the lumpy scar that joined

shoulder to elbow

i wanted to

know why it was there

what had shaped this boy?

 

The story of Alice and Manny is haunting, touching and powerful.  They both have extraordinary obstacles to overcome not the least of which is the ignorant small town bigotry which seems to abound in so many places.

Told in two parts from these young people, the text is lyrical and full of beauty as Alice and Manny overcome the wrecks of their childhood lives and cleave to each other for strength.

This is a novel that will move you and I highly recommend it for discerning readers from around 13 years up.

 

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