So, let me start off by saying that I’m painfully aware I read Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli about twelve years too late. Even when you’re late to the party, the punch is still sweet. (What does that even mean? I don’t know, but it made sense in my head at the time.) What I’m saying is this was published in 2000. I was only twelve, and I vaguely remember the cover splashed across pages of book orders (remember that awesomeness? Cool books for CHEAP!) and on shelves in the school library, or at book fairs. My friend Kirsten has always loved this book. There isn’t any real reason why I didn’t get around to reading it. I even think I checked it out from the public library one summer, (and I’m ashamed to say, I must have returned it back unread.) I’ve redeemed myself after a recent trip to the library, though. I saw it’s pretty teal spine on the shelf, and felt it calling my name, demanding to finally be read; so maybe it’s a twenty-four instead of twelve but the story was not lost on me.
Funny to me how I just mentioned that it’s not very often I read novels with male narrators (YA fiction, or not) but here I am again. Stargirl is told from the perspective of Leo Borlock, a junior at Mica High School. Leo is best friends with Kevin Quinlan and together they’ve created a tv show where they interview their fellow students called Hot Seat. This is interesting enough in itself, but not nearly as interesting as the new girl who shows up on the first day of school. Stargirl Carraway. She’s a sophomore who was home schooled all her life, until now. Eclectic is probably the best adjective to describe her. Outrageous outfits (costumes, prairie skirts,) a pet rat named Cinnamon perched on her shoulder. She strums her ukelele in the cafeteria. My kind of girl, all around awesome. She’s basically like a walking ray of sunshine, a permanent cheerleader encouraging everyone around her. Stargirl is basically the epitome of a good samaritan. Walking to the beat of her own drum, she doesn’t care what others think of her, or how she’s perceived. As you can imagine, while this may have been cute and endearing in the beginning, high-schoolers can be moody and mean so eventually the other Mica students don’t find Stargirl’s bizarre behavior so charming, anymore. Leo, caught under the spell of Stargirl’s wonderful ways finds himself in a constant internal tug-of-war. He continually meets the crossroads of decision – whose attention and approval does he value more: the girl who’s captured his heart or his peers – who unlike Stargirl are inconsistent in their loyalties?
This novel tugged on my heartstrings, and it nestled in a spot of affection where I think it will remain for years to come. The story is predictable in certain ways as humans sometimes are, although I’d venture to say Stargirl is anything but. In an attempt to not spoil the story, I’ll tell you that it’s a sweet one, sprinkled with love and tenderness the innocence of youth possesses. It’s about decisions, growing up, embracing differences, and learning to not take the special people and moments of our surroundings for granted.
If like me, Stargirl is a book that’s flown under your radar, yet to be detected – I urge you to check it out. I doubt you’ll be disappointed! (And on my last trip to the library this most recent Saturday I checked out Spinelli’s 2007 novel Love, Stargirl which I am sure I will fill y’all in on as soon as I’m finished.)