Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

I’m sure if I were to read this book now I wouldn’t find it nearly so brilliant. Stargirl is such a classic Manic Pixie Dream Girl stereotype that she borders on parody  (she plays the ukelele and has a little toy wagon in her room that she fills with pebbles depending on how happy she is – I mean, Jesus), and the other characters in the story are never well developed, since it’s their job to just coo over how wonderful Stargirl is. Worst of all is our narrator, Leo, who throughout the book remains as dynamic as a cardboard cutout. When Stargirl first shows interest in him (by serenading him with aforementioned ukelele, natch) all the characters wonder, why him? And since Spinelli is so busy showing us that Stargirl is better than any of us ever will be, he forgets to answer that question, and ultimately their romance didn’t make any damn sense.

All of these criticisms, however, occur to me only as I’m writing this review. When I read the book in seventh grade, I thought it was beautiful, brilliant, and hopeful. It still is.

“We joined her as she sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to us in the lunchroom. We heard her greet us in the hallways and classrooms, and we wondered how she knew our names and our birthdays.
Her caught-in-the-headlights eyes gave her a look of perpetual astonishment, so that we found ourselves turning and looking back over our shoulders, wondering what we were missing.
She laughed when there was no joke. She danced when there was no music.
She had no friends, yet she was the friendliest person in school.
In her answers in class, she often spoke of sea horses and stars, but she did not know what a football was.
She said there was no television in her house.
She was elusive. She was today. She was tomorrow. She was the faintest scent of a cactus flower, the flitting shadow of an elf owl. We did not know what to make of her. In our minds we tried to pin her to a corkboard like a butterfly, but the pin merely went through and away she flew.”

Verdict: four out of five stars

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1 Comment

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One response to “Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

  1. I really like that you take into account your past feelings about books and don’t dismiss your previous readings—nicely done.

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