Book Review: Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

Where do I start?

This book was amazing and perfect. I read the synopsis briefly as I cleaned over the summer and found it among a stack of books. I added it to my “Want to Read” list on GoodReads.com. The story was about a girl who was different and unique, and her struggle to fit in. As an outcast myself, I was drawn to this book from the get go, and reading about Stargirl’s unusual character and quirks sometimes made me feel like I was looking back in a mirror.

Stargirl-She changes her name when she feels it no longer suits her. She drops pennies and change just so someone can find it and smile. She photographs life as it’s happening as an observer on the sidelines. She cheers for the other team, sends cards and gifts to people with no name. She carries a pet rat, a ukulele and wears crazy clothes.  She doesn’t seem to care what people think. She’s funny. She’s kind. She is the kind of person you would be lucky to know.

I was never “normal”. I am still not “normal”. What hit me in the mega feels was that Stargirl didn’t seem to care what others thought about her, she just wanted to be herself and so she was. But deep down, she DID care, and when her boyfriend tells her she should be a little less her and a little more like THEM, she changes herself to try to fit in. This really resonated with me, reminding me of my own struggles to accept my differences. I was the “weird” girl that no one wanted to be friends with (except for a very small few who found a kindred weirdness with me), and that boys were scared to death to be liked by. Granted part of that weirdness was due to my ADHD and constantly being on meds-the other part was purely my quirky personality.  I’d always defined myself as a bright pink crayon in a box of black and grey crayons.  Why fit in when you were born to stand out? That’s something I embraced in my later years, but not so much in middle school or high school. It wasn’t until middle school where the bullying I’d been dealing with for years hit something of a high point, and school became literally miserable.  When a new kid arrived instead of befriending them, I caved into the societal norm of middle school and made fun of them (and felt terrible about it). I rectified this quickly by trying to be a friend instead because I felt so awful. One of the best lessons of my life-trying to be like someone else will NOT make you happy. Be the change you want to see. I lived in a world of them, much like Leo and Stargirl, and tried to be one of them too even though I despised THEM.  My heart clenched as Leo who supposedly loved Stargirl for all her uniqueness- told her to be normal and regretted it THE REST OF HIS LIFE.  She cared deeply for others, wanted to spread joy and make others feel special in an otherwise dull world of black and grey crayons.

Spinelli’s novel addresses the issue of being popular, conforming to societal norms, and needing the validation of others. To this day, I still seek that validation much like Leo, because as my life has changed and I have embraced that I will never be like everyone else-in a strange way I still need validation that that’s ok.  Stargirl changed Leo’s life not in the way that they grew up and lived happily ever after, but because even though they fell apart-he was a better person for knowing her and experiencing kindness and compassion through watching her and helping her bring those things to others.  The school body adores Stargirl in the beginning and then turns on her in a way so fickle as high schoolers can be. They shun her for the very things they liked about her. Negativity wins out, as it usually does and in the future at their reunions they bring her up in passing and humor.

This book shows you why it is important to own who you are, and why it is important to stand out above the rest, that life isn’t about who your friends are in high school (some of us are lucky to keep the friends we had when we were teenagers, me being one of them)- it shows that you don’t have to live in between the painted lines that society has laid for you. You can cheer for the other team. You can show empathy even to total strangers. You can brighten someone’s day without even trying. You can notice the details in life and not just the vast picture.

I cried at the end, because unlike so many happy ending stories, this one ended realistically. I also heard that there is a sequel, “Love, Stargirl”- in which I must read. If it’s anything like this book, I know I’m going to love it.

I would recommend this book to probably any teenager, but most definitely to the pink crayons who don’t know how beautiful they are yet. To the outcasts who feel isolated and alone because they are different- this is your validation. In a world of Hillari Kimble’s, be a Stargirl. Always, be a Stargirl.

 

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