Stargirl is one of the strangest and most memorable fiction novels I’ve read in a long time. Aimed roughly at 11 – 15 year olds, it has enormous crossover appeal – and would readily be enjoyed by younger readers and adult readers.
Author Jerry Spinelli has created a bizarre, romantic and fanciful character in Stargirl – a hippy-like teen who enters Mica Area High School one year and sparks the curiosity of fellow student Leo, a wannabe television producer who runs an in-school TV show called Hot Seat.
Leo and his friend Kevin, like the rest of the school, become emotionally embroiled in the antics of Stargirl who walks the canteen at lunch time, strumming her ukelele and singing Happy Birthday to unsuspecting victims. Who leaves congratulatory or Get Well Soon cards on the doorsteps of random people in the community. Who wears long floaty dresses and carries a bag with a sunflower on the side. Who dances on her own. Who cheers for the other team as well as her own and causes a right sensation on the basketball court. So much so, she is asked to join the cheerleading team, but when Stargirl takes it too far by helping a member of the opposing basketball team, things begin to go awry.
Things also begin to go awry for Leo, who becomes strangely attracted to Stargirl and, as the curious popularity of his love interest begins to turn to outright ostracism, Leo finds himself embroiled in a Lord of the Flies style hate campaign that boggles Stargirl and her elegantly childlike and innocent way of being.
Set in the haunting Arizona desert, this is a haunting and moving story of teenhood, of love, of being different. It’s about the Blue Eyed/Brown Eyed consequences of refusing to ‘fit in’ and be like everyone else. It is moving, a little frightening, tender and peculiar. It’s different – and Lord knows the literary world needs different.
This book is immensely rewarding and its ending is as poignantly peculiar as its subject matter. In fact, its ending left me lingering in the air – like that microsecond before freefall. I couldn’t even breathe – I just sort of sat there and waited for the ground to catch me.
If you want unusual, this is your read.
Stargirl is published by Orchard Books