Author: Jerry Spinelli
Published: May 2004 by Laurel Leaf
My Rating: 4 stars
Tags: YA | Nonconformity | Realistic-ish
First Lines: When I was little, my uncle Pete had a necktie with a porcupine painted on it. I thought that necktie was just about the neatest thing in the world.
Leo Borlock and every other student at his high school are exactly the same - the way they dress, talk, act, even think. Then a new student shows up: Stargirl. The optimistic, ukulele-playing, strange girl that carries a rat in her bookbag. She's immediately liked by almost everyone and becomes the most popular girl at school because she's so different. But all of that changes one day at a basketball game. Now, no one will even look her in the eye. And as Stargirl's boyfriend, Leo begins getting shunned, too. He asks her to do the one thing that isn't her: be normal.
First of all, this is a middle school grade reading level book, not what I'm used to. But we're learning about Transcendentalism and nonconformity in my English class, and our teacher said this was a perfect contemporary example of it. After I got used to the simple sentence structure and lack of details/better vocab, since this isn't quite young-adult material, I grew really fond of the book. Jerry Spinelli did an amazing job of creating a world where everyone is pretty much clones of each other, and Stargirl is a huge outcast because she's so different. I fell in love with Stargirl from the very beginning: she's never pessimistic, always smiling and finding happiness from the littlest things in life. Saying that she's generous and humble would be an understatement because caring for others is literally all she does. It makes me wish there were more Stargirls in real life, because it would make the world such a better and beautiful place. The characterization was spot-on and I really got to know Stargirl and Leo throughout the book. It hurt me to watch Leo's battle with himself of who's opinion he cared about more: Stargirl's or the kids' at school? I could understand why he felt embarrassed when he was with her, but at the same time, he fell in love with her because she was so different.
There was so much deep meaning in such a simple book. The author touched on the topic of popularity and caring what others think, and I liked the way he portrayed it at the end. Even though Stargirl's character wasn't that realistic, the rest of the book was. I could feel Stargirl's emotions through certain chapters, where she strained to keep a smile on her face even when the whole school was against her. Archie, the wise old man whom all the students visit for advice, is probably one of my favorite fictional characters. He spoke in clever riddles sometimes, not exactly telling Leo the answer, but pushing him in the right direction.
I really, really approved of the ending. It was like the cherry on top, not cheesy and predictable, but just felt right. I'm very interested to read the sequel now and find out what happens next. This was such a creative and different book that will have a lasting impression on me for a long time. I'm so glad I read it and encourage everyone else to. You may just learn something about yourself and society if you read between the lines, and listen carefully to what Archie has to say.
Cover Thoughts: It's cute, and I like the colors. I'm always a fan of simple covers - and I like how the title is portrayed using drawings.