REVIEW: Stargirl (Stargirl #1) by Jerry Spinelli

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars, Genre: Fiction, Pages: 186, Reading Level: Easy

Book Description:

“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.

In this story about the perils of popularity, the courage of nonconformity, and the thrill of first love, an eccentric student named Stargirl changes Mica High School forever. “

Wow. I am going to have to extend my all time favorites list to twenty so this makes it on there.

Stargirl is a story about… I don’t even know how to summarize. Obviously you can read the summaries on Goodreads, Barnes & Noble and Amazon, but they wouldn’t come close to explaining what you will take away from this book. I guess the closest I can come to summarizing is- Stargirl is the story of someone who marches to the beat of her own drummer and what happens when she breaks into the rigid structure of conformity that is known as high school.

Before I begin my comments, please keep in mind that I am an adult. At the time of this review, I am in my early forties. So while the story is great, the parts that sing to me are completely different than what captures my 10 year old daughter’s attention. Reading my comments below, you may think this book is one long intellectual quote after another, but it is not. This is a high school story with drama, crushes, mean girls, cheerleading, awkward lunch scenes, ukuleles and nose picking. I’m not kidding. I could not get through the nose picking scene without stopping several times to laugh and catch my breath, and it isn’t even that long. As I was saying, despite my comments below, trust me, Stargirl is a very good book to read together with your kids, and I do emphasize ‘together.’ I cannot emphasize that enough. Even if you do not regularly read aloud with your child, which I highly recommend (reading that is, not the not reading), this book may be the place to start or recommence. It is short and a quick read. And you definitely want to read it with your child. It is a great opportunity to get kids to talk because I guarantee Stargirl will bring up recollections of real life incidents.

This book is so incredibly beautiful. I laughed. I cried. I had to stop from time to time to take in what I had just read. The writing, phenomenal-

The echo of her laughter is the second sunrise I awaken to each day, and at night I feel it is more than stars looking down on me. p148.

I have to admit I am not quite up on my literary devices, but I believe the following quote is a metaphor. Please someone correct me in the comments section if I am wrong. This is not the only reference to frogs so it would make a good discussion point. I just never thought a quote that includes frogs could be so eloquent-

It was wonderful to see, wonderful to be in the middle of: we mud frogs awakening all around. We were awash in tiny attentions. Small gestures, words, empathies thought to be extinct came to life. For years the strangers among us had passed sullenly in the hallways; now we looked, we nodded, we smiled. If someone got an A, others celebrated, too. If someone sprained an ankle, others felt the pain. We discovered the color of each other’s eyes.

It was a rebellion she led, a rebellion for rather than against. For ourselves. For the dormant mud frogs we had been for so long. p38

And while there are very funny scenes in the book, especially the nose picking scene, I know I already mentioned that but it is really funny and deserves to be mentioned twice, there are frequently quotes that are so poignant they take your breath away-

It’s in the morning, for most of us. It’s that time, those few seconds when we’re coming out of sleep but we’re not really awake yet. For those few seconds we’re something more primitive than what we are about to become. We have just slept the sleep of our most distant ancestors, and something of them and their world still clings to us. For those few moments we are unformed, uncivilized. We are not the people we know as ourselves, but creatures more in tune with a tree than a keyboard. We are untitled, unnamed, natural, suspended between was and will be, the tadpole before the frog, the worm before the butterfly. We are, for a few brief moments, anything and everything we could be. p85

Ahh… there are so many quotes I want to share, but I don’t want to take away the joy of discovering them yourself during the course of this breathtaking story. I guess what I find most beautiful about Stargirl is how in a world that sometimes makes us feel so insignificant, we see how one person can have such a huge impact on an individual and community with only a brief presence.

Do yourself a favor- read the book.

On a personal note…

000- BlogMy daughter marches to the beat of her own drummer as well, as you can see from the picture. She was about 6 years old when she started dressing herself for school and this was not even the most… unique… of her outfits. She thought she looked good. Why would I want to contradict that? I myself did not always conform to social norms, and while I truly believe I am a happier person for it, it wasn’t easy. It is much harder to watch my daughter go through it. She is younger and more immature than her classmates, so she doesn’t always understand why she is being punished socially for some of the things she does.

When I heard about Stargirl, I thought it would be the perfect book for her to read. First, because I knew she would sympathize with Stargirl and see the situation from a larger perspective. Also, so when she sees a Stargirl, hopefully she will be more likely to befriend her rather than join the crowd in distancing themselves.

As we read, she was excited when good things happened to Stargirl. She laughed at the funny things Stargirl did, not at Stargirl, but because Stargirl’s behavior was fun and out of the ordinary. She became upset and indignant when Stargirl was treated poorly. I can only hope she remembers that feeling when she sees someone else being treated poorly just for being different. And I hope she remembers how much she loved Stargirl’s uniqueness, finding strength and taking pride in her own when she herself is the target of less than kind behavior.

Reviewed by Christina
September 25, 2013

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