I’m excited to share my review today of Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli. I recently reread this novel for my neighborhood book club. While I’m fairly certain I’ve read this book before (probably when I was a teenager?), it felt like I was reading it for the first time. In many ways, Stargirl is a modern classic, a celebration of being yourself and being unique. It gave us so much to talk about!
- How would this story be different if told from Stargirl’s perspective. What would it be like to be inside her mind?
- So many lines I want to write down and remember–wisdom from Stargirl. She helps me see the world a bit differently.
According to Goodreads, “Leo Borlock follows the unspoken rule at Mica Area High School: don’t stand out–under any circumstances! Then Stargirl arrives at Mica High and everything changes–for Leo and for the entire school. After 15 years of home schooling, Stargirl bursts into tenth grade in an explosion of color and a clatter of ukulele music, enchanting the Mica student body.
But the delicate scales of popularity suddenly shift, and Stargirl is shunned for everything that makes her different. Somewhere in the midst of Stargirl’s arrival and rise and fall, normal Leo Borlock has tumbled into love with her.
In a celebration of nonconformity, Jerry Spinelli weaves a tense, emotional tale about the fleeting, cruel nature of popularity–and the thrill and inspiration of first love.”
Stargirl. What a character! I was impressed by her confidence. By how much she notices. By the details of her dress, decorating her desk, gifts for her homeroom, birthdays, Cinnamon the rat, enchanted places, how to be a cheerleader and her big eyes. She is kind and eccentric and unique. She is awkward, naive, and genuine. I loved her and admired her. I want to be more like her. We talked at book club about having Stargirl moments when we embrace our own hopes and dreams. When we do something out of the norm but which we feel strongly about. That’s Stargirl. Is she real? Can someone really be that unique and that confident? Perhaps it’s not about if she is real but simple that we all can aspire to be her.
I really enjoyed the narration from Leo’s point of view. We see Stargirl in an interesting way because he likes her. But he also wants to fit in. That dynamic was interesting to observe. She changes for him but then returns to herself. Should we change for the people we love? I liked the person he becomes when they start dating. And the sweet, naive relationship they build. Leo feels realistic because he can’t completely embrace Stargirl’s world. He wants to be in the world with everyone else. But which world is more real? Who is more genuine? Fascinating to see him grapple with those ideas and to think about them for ourselves.
Spinelli hits the high school popularity dynamic on the head. The way they move and act in a group. How easily they conform to being winners and mean winners at that. The way everyone just blends in. The ways they embrace Stargirl then ostracize her. How she gets more people at a football game to see her balance on the goal posts. Her songs that she makes up on the spot for someone who throws garbage in the trash can. Her belief that they will all be there to welcome her home a champion of the speech competition and her reaction when they don’t. The right way and the wrong way to be a cheerleader. The fascination. The silent treatment. I was intrigued by their interactions and how much she teaches them. And how they remember her year later.
The ending is really satisfying in it’s non happily ever after. Not everyone is content. Leo has questions and their relationship just slides away. Glad he continues to see Senor Sanguaro and Mr B. Loved the way Mr B talks about bones and life and death and humanity. Stargirl is there one day and gone the next. And I appreciated that Leo has regrets and wishes that are not fulfilled. He could have been better to her and he could have defended her. He could have chosen nonconformity but he doesn’t. It feels realistic.
Overall, a great read! I’m curious about the new Disney adaptation now. It would be neat to see these relationships on screen. A great novel and an important one for YA readers to read and discuss.
What do you think of Stargirl?
Could you stand up for her against the popular kids?