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Harriet, Chobham Academy Book Group

The Stars at Oktober Bend

I was uneasy about this book at first and wasn't sure I was going to enjoy it, but I very quickly began to like Alice and was soon hooked by the unexplained back-story and by wanting to know what would become of her and Joey and Manny. But most of all I loved the quirky language and the poetry, both in the poems and in the narrative. Alice's writing reveals her story so gradually that it has to be pieced together through her images and her bird metaphors, letting the reader "unpick the stitches that locked [her and Manny's] secrets inside". As the oblique references to what has happened in the past build into a complete picture of how Alice came by her "twelveness" the reader realises with satisfaction that they do "get it" and can empathise with her all the better.
Her beautifully observed descriptions - "a bare bulb burnt like a caught sun in a wire cage" and the "holy pages thin as bee-wings" of Gram's bible - help paint a picture of a young girl who, though damaged, describes her world in fine detail.
The building friendship between Alice and Manny was perhaps a bit unlikely but it was refreshing to read a Carnegie book where the characters do gently find happiness and things end on a note of optimism. Even the lovely Bear, who many writers would have sacrificed to add a bit of tragedy to the tale, was a gentle guardian angel throughout the novel and, refreshingly, came out unscathed at the end.
The style of Glenda Millard's beautiful poetic prose has made me want to read more of her books and has placed Oktober Bend at the top of my personal Carnegie shortlist for this year.

Posted on: 2nd June 2017 at 03:19 pm

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