Author: Jerry Spinelli
Country: US (2000)
Genre: Young Adult - Realistic Fiction
Challenges: YA Challenge
Jerry Spinelli is a very prolific Y.A. novelist. The masses seem to adore him; however, for me, he's always been hit or miss. (For example, I was not impressed with Maniac Magee, and only moderately enjoyed Eggs). Stargirl, for some reason, seemed different to me. I already sensed that I would enjoy it. (Perhaps it is the cover? It always makes me smile). Nonetheless, even though my curiosity was piqued I would put it on the back burner time and time again. In fact, it took a book talk from one of my students that put Stargirl on the forefront once again.
One single student spoke about how this novel dramatically changed her life. She brought in her worn copy, with pages falling out from the binding, as proof of her love. She animatedly spoke of this incredible character that she felt represented her in many ways, giggling and laughing over anecdotal stories involving Stargirl. She spoke of this high school girl as though she was a a dear friend - someone that she went to the mall with or chatted with on the phone. I have never experienced a book talk as forthcoming as this student's! And evidently, neither had my students because during the Q&A time, another raised their hand and asked if they could borrow it!
So this week, during our DEAR time, I pulled Stargirl off of my shelf and began reading. And I read and read. I couldn't put the story down. So what makes Stargirl so intoxicating of a character? She embodies that part of Self that reminds us that it's okay to be ourselves, to be a bit quirky, and to give of ourselves.
The story is told by Leo, a tenth grader at Mica Area High School. He's an average Joe who works in the film production area of the school with his best friend, Kevin. He's pretty genuine and relatable. Leo describes his high school as being rather formulaic. Everyone dresses similar, thinks similar, likes the same activities, music and movie. Their daily lives are fairly set and it's as if the kids are on cruise control. Until Stargirl comes into the picture.
Stargirl is everything their not. She's crafty, kooky, amazing, and has no guards put up. She floats to school in crazy clothes: flowing long dresses with ruffles, overalls, bright stripes. Stargirl wears no make-up (gasp!). During lunch, she's comfortable sitting by herself, eating her sandwich with her pet rat, and when finished, singing while playing her ukulele. Stargirl serenades birthday tunes to students and cheers them on when they are caught doing something good (throwing a piece of trash into the garbage for example).
Her motto is to cheer for everyone. She leaves little presents on the desk of her homeroom class, attends funerals of those that she doesn't know, and leaves cards on the front doorstep of strangers. The school doesn't know what to make of her, but eventually, they become enamored. Including Leo.
The high school, and even the town, all seem to become a better place with Stargirl in it. Until her oddities become a bit too much, and the students of Mica High are made uncomfortable one too many times by her altruism. Stargirl eventually looses her shine and the students begin to give her and Leo the silent treatment.
The novel questions adolescent acceptance, the struggle between fitting in or being yourself, and what role we wish to play in our larger community. Stargirl poses the question: why can't we cheer for everyone? And she's right. She's the voice of our long lost community of caring for a neighbors.
The cool thing about Stargirl is it really appears as though this book has become an entity of itself - there are Stargirl Socieites! and information on how you can begin your own! There's talk of a movie even.
I'm looking forward to reading Love Stargirl which is suppose to tell the story through her perspective.