November 24, 2011

Stargirl

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by Jerry Spinelli

I could feel my heart practically breaking inside me as I was reading this book. It is one of those YA books that are relevant and replete with life lessons for all to learn, whether you can relate to the characters or not.

Stargirl is told in the first-person point of view of Leo Borlock, a junior at Mica High School in Arizona, who crosses paths with a beautiful, kind, and weird girl who has re-christened herself as, well, Stargirl. Stargirl Caraway draws attention to herself from day one by acting and doing things that are out of the ordinary: she plays the ukulele and sings “Happy Birthday” to her classmates-celebrators in the cafeteria, right in front of everyone; she covers her desk on three sides with a floral curtain in all of her classes, and puts a flower on a shallow vase on top, too; she dances in the rain; she cheers for the opposing team when they score, and; she dresses in odd clothes. Simply put, she was different from everybody else, and she doesn't care.

Notwithstanding such non-conformity, Leo finds himself drawn to Stargirl, as did everyone else – in the beginning. But a series of events makes these very same people turn against Stargirl, and Leo, as well, by association, whom everyone began calling “Mr. Stargirl”. Thus, Leo inadvertently comes at a crossroads, and must decide whose opinion matters more to him: Stargirl's, or everyone else's.



More than the fact that it was an easy read, Stargirl is a lovely book about belonging and acceptance, one that delves into the pitfalls of highschool popularity. Reading about how much Stargirl strived so hard to be normal – to belong, to be just like everybody else – wrenched my heart, especially since she did it not of her own volition, and because in her attempts to be normal, she shed her own identity and became a completely different person. After reading the book, I realized that it begged the question: How important is it, really, to be normal and popular in school? Is popularity a requirement among teenagers/highschool kids before you could belong?

Although from my own experience, I did not find myself in either Leo's or Stargirl's situation when I was their age, I felt like I could completely relate to them. I could feel how much Leo was torn between his feelings for Stargirl and his sense of belonging with the rest of the school. I could understand the lengths to which Stargirl went to please Leo; I could perceive her happy moments, disappointments and heartaches. Their realness leaped out at me from the pages, it was that good a book.

To end this short review (if it can be called that), I will leave you with this particular line that tugged at my heartstrings, from a dialogue by Archie Brubaker, Leo's aged paleontologist friend who collected bones, fossils and similar stuff:

“... [E]very once in a while someone comes along who is a little more primitive than the rest of us, as little closer to our beginnings, a little more in touch with the stuff we're made of.”

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

2 comments:

dementedchris said...

I really enjoyed reading Stargirl too. It was one of those books that made me think about what I was like in grade school... if I would have acted just like Leo.

Monique said...

Chris: Reading Stargirl made me think if I would've wanted to become her... and realized that I am too coward to do so.