Book Review: Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

by Claudia Rojas

Stargirl is the typical boy-meets-girl story with the least of typical girls. Spinelli’s characters are often beautiful wonders; here, readers will not be disappointed, as they meet home-schooled, bright sunshine, Susan Caraway. The novel gives young readers a close look at a familiar setting and plot: the complex social network of high school and sweet experience of young love.

The story begins with a hot and quiet Arizona. No one at Mica High expects Susan Caraway, or as she calls herself, Stargirl, to become popular. No one expects Leo, our protagonist, and upperclassman, to fall in love with her. Leo himself is a pretty average boy with average friends and an average desire to fit in with his classmates.

Stargirl is many things—above all, she is one of a kind. Everyone is surprised to see her long dresses, birthday song ukulele, and pet rat, Cinnamon. She is oblivious to her quirks, and those are the things that take her and Leo on an adventure of love, popularity, and teenage anxiety. Soon, Hillari Kimble, Mica’s most popular girl, makes it her mission to take any good spotlight from Stargirl.

And so, this is a story with mean girls. This is a story of first loves and kisses. It’s sometimes a story of loneliness, of shun. It’s a story that follows a spirited girl, who believes in cheering for both teams at basketball games, doing good deeds, and showing anyone and anything love. Because the story is told from Leo’s perspective, and teen boys can sometimes be clueless, Stargirl remains a mystery.

Leo faces the grand and overrated question of “What will other people think of me?” It’s a question that finds us at many stages of our lives, from high school to college, to the workplace. For readers wanting more, read Love, Stargirl, a first perspective account from Stargirl herself. Though the timeframe of Love, Stargirl differs from Stargirl, they are complementary and fun books.

My favorite part about this novel is its inviting quality. Through a quick glance at the childish art on the cover, a reader can expect a delightful read. I first read this novel as a shy student in middle school and as a college-age tutor working with middle school girls. Over the years, I have returned to Stargirl; I truly believe in Stargirl’s simple message: kindness and individuality matter.

Stargirl, of course, gets 5 stars!

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