A review by Nalini Haynes
Alice Nightingale is 15 years old. According to her diagnosis she will remain ‘forever 12’ because of a head injury causing acquired brain injury. The Stars at Oktober Bend is told by Alice with occasional assistance from Manny, an adoptee from war-torn Sierra Leone, both living in a country town in Victoria.
Alice’s style is unusual: she doesn’t use capital letters but she does use punctuation. Her syntax is off-beat, especially in the beginning, but it gradually smooths out as she grows. Her poems are part of her story-telling as well as part of her story.
Manny’s voice is well-educated English-as-a-second-language: impressively fluent but not quite flawless English with forays into cross-cultural queries and misunderstandings.
The Stars at Oktober Bend spans a few months with references to the past, Alice unraveling the mystery of what happened to her, to her family and how that impacts upon who she is. Manny’s story is different and yet has parallels.
At first I thought Alice’s brain injury was due to a car accident but the truth is much darker. On the one hand, I want to issue a trigger warning; on the other hand I don’t want to spoil the story.
I cried while reading The Stars at Oktober Bend. Mostly I cried because of kindnesses, of healing: from a dark event emerges love and life and a shift in perception. But, sometimes, I cried for the characters’ grief.
I can’t say much because I want you to read this excellent novel and experience it untainted by spoilers.
I highly recommend The Stars at Oktober Bend; read this if you liked The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. There will be awards.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars; there will be awards
Format: paperback, 288 pages
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Imprint: A & U Children
Category: Young adult fiction