Sunday, May 15, 2011

Stargirl Book Review

Author: Jerry Spinelli. Release date: 2000. Publisher:  Dell Laurel-Leaf. ISBN: 9780440416777.

File:Jerry Spinelli - Stargirl.jpgAnnotation: Mica High School is just like any other school until Stargirl moves to town. Stargirl doesn’t act like everyone else: she is free-spirited, perpetually optimistic, and constantly encouraging. Will the students of Mica High force her to conform?

Personal thoughts: I wasn’t sure what to make of this novel initially, but came to find the character of Stargirl to be quite endearing. She is unlike any other character I’ve met in a novel, and I realized that that was likely Spinelli’s intention. I really liked the relationship between Leo and Stargirl, and how he really admired her despite the pressure he felt from his classmates to shun her. I would definitely recommend this novel to ‘tween, teen and adult readers.
Plot summary: Sixteen-year-old Leo Borlock is a junior at Mica High School. He leads a normal life, along with the rest of his classmates who try not to stand out. Everything changes when new-girl, Stargirl Caraway, arrives at Mica High. Stargirl does everything but fit in. She wears unusual clothes (her mother is a costume designer), she carries her pet rat, Cinnamon, with her everywhere, and generally dances to the beat of her own drum. At first the rest of the school isn’t sure what to make of the newcomer, but soon the student body is enchanted by her charm, none more-so than Leo. Just as quickly as her popularity rises, however, it begins to fade when Mica High begins to question the things she does. They don’t understand why she insists upon cheering when rival basketball teams score, why she shows up to the funerals of strangers, or any of her formerly charming actions. Leo’s still madly in love with Stargirl, even if the rest of the school starts to shun them both. But how long will his infatuation last as Mica High School becomes more and more distant?
Review: Stargirl is an interesting and unique story about an interesting and unique, free-spirited girl. Spinelli does an excellent job of setting the stage for Stargirl’s “grand entrance” to Mica High School; it’s akin to when Dorothy steps into the Land of Oz for the first time and everything goes from black-and-white to color. The relationship between Leo and Stargirl is an interesting mix of adoration and confusion. Leo doesn’t know what to make of Stargirl’s strange behavior: her ukulele playing, her unusual clothes, her celebration of all the little things her classmates do. Young readers will be able to appreciate how different Stargirl is from their own peers, just as Leo does. Her rise and fall from popularity will also be interesting for ‘tweens who might witness similar situation in their own schools. Overall, Stargirl’s unique and fun-loving qualities make for an entertaining and heartwarming story that will likely stick with readers for some time.
Genre: Fiction
Reading level: Grade 5+
Similar titles:  Love, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli (sequel to Stargirl).
Themes: Conformity/nonconformity, high school relationships, acceptance, struggling to fit-in.  
Awards/Reviews: Positive reviews from School Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, and Publishers Weekly. An ALA Top Ten Best Book for Young Adults.
Series Information: Sequel, Love, Stargirl, by Jerry Spinelli.

Discussion Questions:

- What does the word "conformity" mean to you? Does that concept play an important role in the novel?

- Have you ever known anyone like Stargirl? Would you like to be like Stargirl yourself? Why or why not?

- Why do you think Stargirl becomes popular so quickly? Why do you think she becomes unpopular so quickly?

- Who is your favorite character in the novel? Why?

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