Friday, September 9, 2011
Review of Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Stargirl. From the day she arrives at quiet Mica High in a burst of color and sound, the hallways hum with the murmur of “Stargirl, Stargirl.” She captures Leo Borlock’s heart with just one smile. She sparks a school-spirit revolution with just one cheer. The students of Mica High are enchanted. At first.
Then they turn on her. Stargirl is suddenly shunned for everything that makes her different, and Leo, panicked and desperate with love, urges her to become the very thing that can destroy her: normal. In this celebration of nonconformity, Newbery Medalist Jerry Spinelli weaves a tense, emotional tale about the perils of popularity and the thrill and inspiration of first love
The designation of this book as Young Adult or Middle Grade is a difficult one to define. It seems as if it should be YA simply due to the age of the characters and the high school setting, but the story itself is what to me makes it seem more middle grade.
Stargirl is one of those people that many of us wish we could be. Completely free of inhibitions, unconcerned with the social hierarchy that is well established with schools. She simply didn't care that people thought she was strange. She was happy and did everything she could to make the people around her happy as well, and to make them feel special and loved.There were points where it was annoying. That she was simply too perfect an example of how being yourself will make people like you, as well as how it can make them revile you as well.
Leo is a more believable character, although he's not especially likable throughout the much of the book, and considering it's told from his point of view, that's difficult. But I think it's intention that we don't really like Leo entirely, because Spinelli's intention is to show us ourselves. And sometimes that's not a pretty picture.
The black and whiteness of the story is what makes me see this as a book for a much younger audience. Teens that have experienced the true mundaneness of high school may simply find it preachy, and unrealistic. There's no way this girl would have been accepted by the popular group. And the non-popular characters are portrayed as craving that status. From my memories of high school, I could have cared less about anyone other than my own circle of friends.
I did enjoy the book and ultimately there is a good moral lesson, that I think would be better suited to pre-high school teens.