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Hana, French International School Hong Kong

The Stars at Oktober Bend

The book is about Alice, a girl who has trouble with speech due to brain damage. But it’s clear that she’s extremely smart and intelligent, as she writes beautiful words of poetry. Yes, she may be a little slow at times, but it’s much easier for Alice to put her words on paper than to verbally construct a sentence. The way her voice is portrayed, with no capital letters, short sentences and bouts of poetry is a beautiful way of capturing what speech is like for Alice.

On the other hand, this is interchanged with Manny’s perspective, a young black orphan who discovers her poetry and doesn’t judge her by her disability. I found Manny’s voice to be young, fresh and absolutely endearing. While it definitely did feel like insta-love, the way they so quickly started getting attached to each other, but I don't blame them because they needed someone to be there for them.

The diversity in the book was done brilliantly, and I liked how they weren’t stereotypical characters. They both broke the bonds of their stigmas – with Alice looking after her elderly grandmother, and Manny as someone who could survive through PTSD and the horrific circumstances of war. But despite being disabled, despite being a boy soldier, the two find a certain comfort in each other. Alice has found someone who she can share her “voice” with, and Manny with someone he can protect and trust.

If reading about a brain damaged girl and a young survivor of war sounds heart breaking enough, that’s only the start of it. Stars at Oktober Bend is filled with horrifically disgusting people who bully both of the characters. Their ignorance, their crude behaviour and their abusive words and actions just really made my angry. Not only that, but the book continually unfolds as the true horror of the story slowly unfolds. It reveals Alice’s past for why she’s like that, and shares Manny’s horrific past experiences. But it doesn’t stop there – it continually evolves into more horrific circumstances that don’t just surround Alice and Manny, but their families, friends and enemies.

The sibling relationship here is also written beautifully, with Joey showing Alice love and humility, where the rest of the world does not. He’s such a wonderfully caring brother, and truly showed what unconditional sibling love is.

I feel like having one or two sad themes would have been quite enough (since this book has a lot of emotions and feelings), but in more ways than one, Stars at Oktober Bend was a shocking experience. While it’s incredibly beautiful in the writing, the theme and the characters, I just feel completely depressed and miserable after I read it. But all in all I thought it was a magnificent book and recommend it to anyone who has a love in emotional books.

Posted on: 4th May 2017 at 02:00 pm

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