Monday, 13 June 2016

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

review by Maryom

Mica high school has a new student with an unusual name, Stargirl. At first people think she's strange - she brings her pet rat along to school, wears odd clothes, plays her ukulele and sings Happy Birthday to people she doesn't know - but gradually they begin to fall for her charms, her bright outlook on life and her desire to make everyone happy. Stargirl though, instead of starting to fit in, keeps being her same irrepressible but odd self - no other cheerleader would feel happy when either team scores! The things people once liked about Stargirl are becoming the things they now dislike!
So, while the story's narrator, Leo, is falling in love with Stargirl, his fellow students are turning against her. She doesn't appear to notice but Leo gradually realises that she is being shunned by everyone - and so is he when he's with her. Once the crowd have decided you're not one of them there's no way back, and Leo soon finds himself caught between Stargirl and his old friends.

Stargirl is a story about being different, and daring to stand out from the crowd, about the struggle between conforming and being true to oneself. It's told from the perspective of Leo, a student in the year above Stargirl, who falls in love with this crazy girl and all the things that make her 'weird' but then finds himself torn between her and his 'normal' friends - which makes the reader understand that it's harder than you might realise to stand out from the crowd.

Stargirl herself is a little like the 'manic pixie dream girl' trope of films - a quirky individual whose main role is to bring about change in some emotionally-stunted guy, she's colourful, attractive in a slightly off-beat way and full of life. Stargirl certainly fits the bill! She's got the unusual clothes, weird pet, a special place out in the desert where she goes to think, and, like a fairy godmother, her day is spent in creating little moments of happiness for those around her - both the people she knows and complete strangers. But there's more to her than the standard two-dimensional character; she knows she isn't like other students, even when at her most popular, and tries to fit in - it's just that suddenly no one wants to know.

It's a story that will make you think - about how most of us try to fit in, don't want to do anything to make us 'different', and also about how anyone who chooses to not follow the unwritten rules is often marginalised - but above all it's an enjoyable and very readable book. The publishers suggest  9+ as its target readership but I think it will appeal to readers well into their teens (I certainly didn't feel I was being talked down to, and I'm MUCH older)

Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - Orchard Books
Genre - 9+, teen fiction, 

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