“Stargirl” by Jerry Spinelli
Mrs. M. tells me that some of her students in READ 180 classes have completed some of the novels available in the course and might like to comment on them. I hope that if you’re in the class, you’ve chosen to read “Stargirl.” I love this book.
Stargirl is a true nonconformist, a deeply compassionate one. Unlike the ‘nonconformists’ in most books I’ve read who are secretly cool or quite disturbed, Stargirl is a sweet girl whose quirky behavior makes her, by turns, loved and then hated by her classmates at Mica Area High in Mica, Arizona.
The novel’s narrator, Leo Borlock, is fascinated by Stargirl—the way she carries a ukulele to the cafeteria and sings “Happy Birthday” to classmates, cheerleads for her own basketball team and for the opponents as well, and meditates in the desert. He can overlook the fact that she dresses in a very weird way and has a pet rat. When he starts to fall in love with Stargirl, Leo begins to wish that she would just be normal so that he doesn’t have to be an outcast for dating her. He has to decide whether to be loyal to her (and thus to himself) or to fit in with other students.
If you have read “Stargirl,” then follow it up with “Love, Stargirl.” This is a sequel, but the point of view is Stargirl’s rather than Leo’s. “Love, Stargirl” is touching as well because it details the musings of a broken heart, as Stargirl writes “the world’s longest letter” to Leo. As she baby-sits a clever neighbor child and befriends an agoraphobic townswoman, Stargirl shows us that it’s possible to get to the other side of love-grief–and still be kind.
It’s funny because, usually, this sort of lighthearted whimsy is not my thing. I think that says something about the author’s ability to tell Stargirl’s story.