Author: Jerry Spinelli
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (2000)
In a moving and highly engaging tale about the vagaries of adolescent peer pressure, Newbery Medal winner Jerry Spinelli tells the story of Stargirl, a high school student who is startlingly different from everyone else. The need to conform -- and unabashed curiosity about those who don't -- are at the heart of this touching tale, which aptly demonstrates the peaks and pitfalls of popularity.
Sixteen-year-old high school student Leo Borlock knows how to fit in at Mica High School. He plays the game like everyone else but is more enthralled than most when a new girl comes to school. Stargirl Caraway is her name, or at least the name she is using for now. And after 15 years of homeschooling, she is decidedly different from even the oddest high school students at Mica High. First there's her unusual name, one in a long line of odd names that she has chosen to go by, ignoring her given name of Susan. Then there's the way she looks, shunning makeup and wearing long granny dresses. But all of that is small potatoes when compared to her behavior, which is as weird and bizarre as any of the students at Mica High have ever seen.
Stargirl is the girl I wish I could have been in high school. She is confident in herself, a little silly and a little unique. She knows that the world can be cruel, but she chooses to see the good in people. She refuses to settle, to play the game or to conform to the standards of her high school. She is the best in all of us.
If you can't tell, I absolutely adore this book. I have read Stargirl at least a dozen times, and find something new to love about it every time. Stargirl is a girl who chooses to live life on her own terms. She chooses to be different, and that difference is what makes her so beautiful to Leo. I love that Jerry Spinelli was able to craft such a unique female character, and give her a voice that stands out in teen literature. Stargirl is an every girl, but totally unique at the same time.
While the book isn't all happiness, there is something redemptive about Stargirl's world. I hate reading the hard parts - the parts where Stargirl is outcast and conforming, but I am so grateful that they don't last. That is the same cycle of life we all go through when we're looking at the world and our place in it. We don't want to be different, but we can't help but be different.
This is a book that girls need to read. We live in a world where conforming is considered right and individuality is so often suppressed. We want to be the good girl, the smart girl, the right girl all the time. And, in doing so, we often squash what is most beautiful about ourselves. We hide the real us for the "approved" us, and in doing so, we lose a little of ourselves.
Final thoughts: Own.