Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

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22 Comments on “Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli”

  1. sbuckleit says:

    Sarah Buckleitner

    As Michelle keeps hinting during class, Stargirl is not about Stargirl (or Susan, or Pocket Mouse, or whatever she happens to be going by). The novel is really about Leo, and his battles with nonconformity and acceptance. I felt like the book was meant to influence young readers like a science experiment would. Spinelli takes an average high school and then throws in a variable: Stargirl. Through the eyes of Leo, we watch as the effects ripple through the school. Because the experiment is viewed from average, normal Leo’s perspective, the war between conformity and originality is felt more acutely than if Stargirl had been the narrator. The only thing that makes Leo remarkable is that he happens to fall in love with Stargirl, and even then, he can still relate to the other students in the school.
    Stargirl is more of a catalyst than a character–she’s meant to seem larger than life, untouchable, impossible, because she is. We aren’t supposed to relate to her. I wasn’t even sure if I liked her in the beginning. She’s so… weird. And so we connect with Leo, and feel the pain of being shunned through his senses, and the yearning of first love through his heart. It’s that connection that gives the novel such a powerful message; we want the kids to accept Stargirl because we love Leo, and Leo loves her. We love him so much that in the end we even forgive him for being like all of the other kids, for trying to change Stargirl, and for being embarrassed by her individuality. We even hope that maybe they’ll find each other again, even though it’s clear that Leo (at least at the time of the novel) doesn’t deserve her.
    This book was written simply and powerfully. The story line is straightforward, and it’s clear that the narrator knows what happens in the end (which gives us hope, because while Leo in the story doesn’t see through the glamour of popularity, future Leo does seem to understand what happened at Mica High and why). Rhetorical questions are scattered throughout the book, ready to engage the reader and make her wonder, too, Why didn’t Hillary drop the rat? Was it something she saw in their eyes?

  2. kbronner says:

    Though the book is named for her, Stargirl is not the focus of the book. If I had to think of the meaning behind Stargirl, I would say besides dealing with meeting the “norms” of high school, it deals with crowd mentality. Everyone can relate to this, especially as an adolescent. Even though many of us may not know someone as eccentric as Stargirl, we have all gone through that period of our life (or still are) where we’re afraid to stand out. We worry constantly about what others think.

    As an adolescent, it is horrible to be different. Everyone wants to act and dress the same way, and ends up pretending to think the same way. Spinelli uses Stargirl’s extreme character to point out to the reader exactly how afraid we are to be different. I could connect with Leo when he didn’t want to stand out; he cared what everyone thought and still wanted them to be nice to him, but Spinelli made me love Stargirl. Through all of the things she did, I just wanted Leo to support her. I couldn’t help but want him to break away from the conformity of his class mates. Spinelli got my hopes up that Leo would rise above caring what his peers thought and I couldn’t help but be mad at him when things between him and Stargirl end. Though he was never fully secure with her eccentricities, his real problem was his own insecurity. If he cared less about what everyone else thought, he would have been completely comfortable and happy in a relationship with Stargirl. In the end, I feel like he loses out. He gives up on her right before everyone else accepts her.

    I was happy with the ending of the book though. At an older age, Leo was able to see that he did miss out. Years later, he still thinks about Stargirl. To me that sends the message to the young reader that the restrictions of trying to fit in aren’t permanent and that as you get older, you care less what people think and it doesn’t matter if you have clothes from the store where everyone else shops or if you like the same things as them. Stargirl sends a message to break away from conformity while also giving hope to those brave individuals that the conformity of adolescence will pass.

  3. Meghan Warager says:

    Meghan Warager
    Star Girl by Jerry Spenelli is the perfect example of how tightly conformed so many of our teenagers are and how much pressure each individual feels to fit into “the norm.” Jerry Spenelli’s use of irony and humor bring to life in a comical way a very serious issue many young teens and high school students go through every day of their lives.
    One way I found Spenelli’s use of irony and humor to be very useful in the story was when Leo was trying to explain to Star Girl about fitting in. Leo asks Star girl if she even cared what people think, which seemed to be the most absurd question to Star Girl who throughout the story only showed acts of caring for others with her candy gifts or flowers or cards. Whereas Star Girl defined caring as giving to or helping others, which is the most logical definition of the word, Leo and the rest of the teenage world believed being overly generous and “caring” draws too much attention on the individual making the situation awkward, and therefore Star Girl was not caring by not conforming to the norm.
    The question that I continued to ask myself through the book is at what age do we learn to conform to these actions and beliefs? It had been stated that Star Girl had been home schooled until she came to Mica High School; therefore she was free to be independent and free from the conforming mind games that most high school kids are subjected too. What age though did Leo learn it was inappropriate to dance in the rain by yourself? Or send small gifts to total strangers? Or be different from others? The examples in this book of conformity such as everyone playing ukulele’s once Star Girl became popular and then shunning her once she became unpopular might be slightly exaggerated, but still have a realm of truth to them which makes the book so humorous. I think every teenager can relate to participating in some tacky trend just because they wanted to fit in.

  4. Luke Lyons says:

    Luke Lyons

    Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

    Okay, I get it; express your individuality. I didn’t see too much else going on in this book. But by no means does this mean that I didn’t have a blast reading it! It’s extremely hard for me to get into books and the number one reason for this is the fact that I NEED to connect with the characters on a personal level. And thankfully I was immediately able to connect with Stargirl. Sorry Leo, but Stargirl was my gem throughout this book.

    I love the fact that Stargirl didn’t care of what people thought of her, but then again, I guess that is the point. Having been through high school, I know this is not the easiest thing to do. Expressing your own uniqueness and individuality is frowned upon more than anything else in high school. This is why Stargirl is my favorite character. Stargirl was able to preserve her classic character even through all of the hackling, snarky comments, and tomatoes to the face.

    I can see exactly why Leo fell in love with Stargirl. I was in love with her as well. I expected her to show Leo the perks of being your own person but clearly, Leo wasn’t having it. Leo got on my bad side when he successfully assisted in the death of Stargirl and the resurrection of Susan. Because of Leo, Stargirl’s newfound fixation with being popular made her a less likeable character. It pained me to see Leo bring Stargirl down because he wasn’t comfortable with himself. If Leo really did like Stargirl as much as he claimed to like her, then her idiosyncrasies would not have been an issue.

    I certainly hope that kids getting ready for high school read this book. I love the fact that Spinelli encourages people to be different. No two people have the same perspectives on anything and it’s always a breathe of fresh air to dive into a new one. This is easily seen through MAHS’s fickle attitude towards Stargirl. For a while they didn’t know if they should love her or hater her. But once it was one or the other, they played the role perfectly. The falling in and out of love with Stargirl got me frustrated because there was no need for it. There was nothing about Stargirl to dislike. The only time I disliked Stargirl was when she finally cracked and gave in to being a conventional student.

    Overall, Stargirl served its purpose. The constant struggle between Stargirl and Hillari (or should I say between Hillari and Hillari) practically showed what the entire book was about. Stargirl was a mirror for people to look into so they could see who they truly were themselves. What is it that drove people so mad over Stargirl? Why did people seem to flock to her? These are all hard questions that anyone can take from reading this book. Stargirl did nothing but promote positivity and individuality. The only thing that could stop the perpetuation of these two things is one’s own self. So before you judge someone for who you perceive them to be, take a hard look at yourself.

  5. Caley says:

    Text Response- Stargirl Caley Goldblatt
    I like the decision that Jerry Spinelli made concerning point of view in this story. Leo is a good choice of narrator because he is an insider of the social norms at the school but, he is also more open-minded than the schools wide population. Through his narration, we have a reliable and honest view into this particulars high school’s social dynamics and how they frequently, unknowably change. If another character, like the mean kids at school or a teacher, narrated this story then there would be an awful bias and the story presented would be completely skewed. But since Leo actually has the opportunity to get to know Stargirl, he can tell the story of the real her, not just the façade she presents. I think that Jerry Spinelli wants the attitude of the reader towards Stargirl to grow more open as Leo’s does.
    I think that the purpose of this text is to deliver the message to young readers that different is okay. I think that the major theme in this book is individualism and accepting no rejecting it. Clearly Stagirl is like no one else but I think Leo’s character development is much more interesting. Through his interactions with Stargirl, and access to his thoughts readers gain insight to Leo’s opinions on individuality. At first he, and the rest of the school, seem to be prompted by curiosity to discover who Stargirl is, but when crowd rejects her, Leo is the only one to overlook the rest of the crowd’s isolation of her. Thinking for your-self and accepting other’s differences are two themes that heavily apply to this middle school age group. Though the concept of ostracism is sophisticated, here it is shown in a simple, relatable way for kids. Also the example of the Amish “shunning” shows a real world example of this concept.
    However when Stargirl transforms into “Susan” it demonstrates that no one is immune to social pressures, in her case Leo’s pressure. On page 146 Susan says, referring to Dori, “She just doesn’t understand how important it is to be popular.” But important to whom? Stargirl never seemed to care before this point about her popularity. Her transition into Susan is for Leo’s happiness, not her own. This is shown through her happiness pebble where only two to the twenty were positive. However her complete change is persona is not enough to make the school accept her. I liked that she regressed back into who she truly is. I think it is a somewhat clichéd, but important lesson for this age group.
    I also enjoyed the rhetoric in this story. It was very simple and clean in that there were no chapter titles, or fancy text, it was just the chapter number and then dived right into each chapter. It also flowed extremely well from chapter to chapter, with no wide gaping holes in the timeline. It was easy to imagine this story occurring at any high school, meaning that it was general enough that young readers could picture the events easily while also being able to position themselves in the shoes of both Leo and Stargirl.

  6. Christopher Shanley says:

    First off, I think this is beautifully written and wanted to acknowledge that. I take issue though with the idea that Leo is less than perfect for the titular character. She wants to lead a line of people into the dessert wrapping herself in a banner of individuality- yet were also meant to feel bad for her when her stand apart backfires. Leo is vilified for merely wanting cravenly to make her happy. Now, that’s not to say he’s not going about in a completely cynical way. I just don’t think cynicism automatically invalidates an idea. In the end this is an individual embarrassing mythic status at the expense of her own humanity and her own relationship. She reminds me of Elizabeth 1st in the way she touches a life with a drop of magic only to whirl away. Her impact might be real but its real on both ends- there’s a row of people who’ve had their perceptions of self and place torn to shreds almost for her amusement.

  7. Katie McLean says:

    Spinelli screams the message loud and clear: “dare to be different”. Stargirl exemplifies this behavior; she strives on her own individuality. With a pet rat, Cinnamon, costume-like clothing, and a Ukelele, Stargirl is no ordinary high school student.

    Spinelli succeeds at developing her as a character, but being high school graduate myself, I could see the irony. She wasn’t that peculiar. Yet high school is not a time to stick out—and if and when you do, you are suddenly on the outside— shunned. By creating a story of this struggle of individuality and conformity, any adolescent can resonate with this book. These problems are inevitable when discovering one’s own identity.

    The narrative of the story is essential. As others mentioned, Leo is the most useful narrator—he is partial to Stargirl and her strange behavior. Initially he is fearful of her, but he cannot help but draw himself closer. The reader can understand this point of view. Now imagine the book written by Hillari Kimble, the girl who slaps Stargirl, telling her, she “ruin[s] everything” (Spinelli, p.175). Her jealousy is clear to the reader—her insecurities fall onto Stargirl, who is the polar opposite of everything Hillari Kimble represents. By imagining this other perspective, it is clear how important Leo is to the entire book. Spinelli offers a viewpoint of sympathy to Stargirl, however, by allowing Leo to lead the way. The reader can’t help but cringe at Stargirl’s behavior, but offers her a hand, just as Leo did.

    Beyond the major theme of individuality, there is a sweet, youthful love story. I cannot remember the last book I read that was told through the mind of a young, infatuated, love struck boy. The innocence between the two characters was sweet; Leo and Stargirl learned from each other and enjoyed each other for their differences. It was refreshing to see how Spinelli handled this awkward-sort-of-love.

    I could see the “younger-me” looking to this as a reassuring story, one that could guide me through adolescent confusion and jumbles of feelings. Surely, the content was appropriate for a pre-teen and teen age group. Leo was learning to dip his toes into the water slowly, to discover something new and scary; we watched him grow up that year in high school, giving an insight that comforts an adolescent reader’s developmental journey towards adulthood.

  8. Eliss Manon says:

    Eliss Mañon
    Adolescent Literature
    Professor: Michele Polak
    Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

    Reading Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli made me realize how important it is for teenager’s know-a-days to fit in into society norms. We are always wondering what other people would think if we do this or that but we seem to forget about how it would make us feel. By doing this we are pleasing others because that’s what society has taught us to do, just be like everyone else. Although it’s wrong we are all guilty of doing it, whether it’s as simple as dressing like everyone else to seem cool or just fit in. Why do we have to fit in with everyone else? Stargirl wasn’t like anyone else and it was clear to Mica High School but that didn’t matter to them, what did matter was that she had to be on their side for everything that dealt with their High School such as the cheering just for their basketball team and not the ‘enemies’.

    She was a friendly person who cared about others and wanted them to feel good because she thought it was the right thing to do. But little did she know that her way of being was the total opposite of what everyone knows to be the social norm. Since Stargirl was home schooled she didn’t know how to be like everyone else or understand why certain things that would have been seen as nice in her eyes, was wrong in the eyes of many of her schoolmate. I liked reading Stargirl so much because it shows how the typical teenagers are in judging other and how mature it can be.

    While I was reading the whole time I was thinking why do they care, is it really that serious to ignore someone forever. It made me realize that when I was growing up I didn’t care what people thought of me but there was always a certain thing that I would want to be good or perfect so that no one would be able to judge me. So the fact that Stargirl tried to change because of what Leo was telling her made me wonder did her really love her, because he did meet her as Stargirl not Susan and why was it so important for him that she be ‘normal’.

    Leo’s popularity was important to him and because he was her boyfriend, they didn’t talk to him either and that was really affecting him. I figured that what someone thinks of them mattered a lot because of the simple fact that they lived in a small town and were not used to people like Stargirl. In reality people need to be more like her because I believe that the world would be a better place if people weren’t so worried what their neighbor would think and so on. Stargirl tried to be normal and as much as she did, it did not work or help people like her again so she went back to the way she knew best to be and that was herself, because that way she was happier and to her that was more important than what anybody else said.

  9. Stephanie Haddad says:

    Spinelli took a wonderful leap in creating the novel Stargirl for young adult readers. This book wasn’t so much focused on Stargirl herself, but it was focused on an even more important character, ordinary Leo. By delving into the mind of Leo, the hardships of social acceptance become a hard-hitting reality for many teens. Stargirl’s obscure presence in a school atmosphere where everyone is normal and no one stands out becomes an obstacle that Leo must face when having to choose between “her or them.”
    Stargirl becomes the definition of a happy, free-spirited soul. She loves and accepts everyone- she doesn’t give a single care as to what others think of her- she laughs, she cheers and she cries for others, but never for herself. Who is she? Where did she come from and why is she like this? These are the types of questions that flood the minds of the student body, but they cannot help but feel some attraction to her strange and interesting personality that for a moment in time they accept her and they love her.
    Stargirl is unique. To be honest, some of the things that Stargirl does are so weird and eccentric. I felt a bit uncomfortable reading about all of the files she kept of different people’s lives. At the same time, I was so intrigued by how outlandish she was. I loved Stargirl and I loved that she wasn’t afraid to be someone different and step out of her comfort zone. At the same token, I loved Leo, which makes this book difficult to read at times when he is struggling to allow himself to accept her when others no longer can. Their romance is so beautiful in the beginning that I just wish he could continue to lose himself in Stargirl for the rest of his life and not care about the rest of the students.
    Leo never stopped loving Stargirl. In the end, I wonder if he might have asked her to the Ocotillo Ball if she hadn’t made the remark “I know you’re not going to ask me to the Ocotillo Ball. It’s okay.” This comment truly hit a hard spot in his heart, and I think it hurt him to know that she was able to accept herself and he still was lost in a sea of confusion regarding social acceptance.

    I absolutely loved the ending. I was so thrilled that Leo finally learned that it never should have mattered to him what others thought; however, I was upset to read that he may never have the chance to see Stargirl again. In the end, he grew up- he finally realized how lucky he was to have met such a rare individual. Stargirl decides to try out the life of a normal teenager, and ultimately, the message that is delivered to the readers is to accept yourself for who you are, love who you are, and disentangle yourself from conformity- you will be missing out on the life you love just like Stargirl would have if she hadn’t gone back to her old ways.

  10. Hannah Sorgi says:

    Hannah Sorgi
    Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

    We need more Stargirls in this world. If everyone was willing to be themselves and not conform to social norms everyone would be more accepting of difference. We see it every day on this campus of who “fits in” and who doesn’t. We have cookie cutter representations of every group on this campus but if for some reason you don’t fit into the acceptable A, B, or C group then you are an outcast. People need to look inside themselves to find their inner Stargirl and show a side of themselves that is raw and real. Leo’s reaction, and wavering acceptance of Stargirl is a very good example for how people attempt to figure out if this can handle the societal pressures of going against the norm. Why should we have to go against something? Why can’t we just be? We are so confident by the walls that go against us. Why should Humans and Zombies define me? Why should the third tier of Saga be a bad place to sit? I think a huge example of this from the book is the the desire of being a cheerleader. This is one of the most cliche group of people that many adolescents can understand. In school, the cheerleaders were defined by the fact they are cheerleaders, but Stargirl does not conform to that stereotype. Cheerleading is something she does not something she is.

    As many others have pointed out, Stargirl does serve its purpose in discuss adolescent social norms, which is probably a topic that is the easiest for people to relate to. I read Stargirl when I was younger and I thought the whole book was about this crazy out of the box girl who had a lot of personality. As a kid was a lot like Stargirl with my personality. Now as a read Stargirl I most identified with Leo and how he handles societal pressures. I have had a guy turn me down because his friends did not think I was “acceptable”. This is not just a story for children because it has a universal theme of acceptance, and a lack of openness that can applied to anything in life. I am not sure if this message is fully received by adolescents while a teachers explanation of the issues in the book.

    In the back of my book there is an interview with Jerry Spinelli and there is a question asked “if you were to characterized your high school experience, how would you describe it?” Spinelli answers with ” Learning to be imperfect and happy at the same time, scratching around for what and who I wanted to be”. I think this statement sums up what Stargirl is all about. If you interpret the book being about Stargirl or about Leo, both characters are trying to be imperfect and happy. It is not always easy being both. Stargirl is both imperfect and happy, whereas Leo is cannot juggle both happiness and imperfection at the same time.

    So I ask this question, are you more like Leo or more like Stargirl?

  11. shanita316 says:

    Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

    Spinelli uses Leo to narrate the how she really feels through Stargirl, which is a great way to grab the reader’s attention. As Luke mentions one of the main focuses of the book is individuality, on the grand scheme of things it forces you to think about identity and how it affects people’s daily lives. Luke, I somewhat beg to differ, Stargirl may have been a gem throughout the book, but Leo won me over since the day she started collecting porcupine ties.

    In the beginning, Leo speaks to Mica High being a place where unconformity is unacceptable. Kbronner discusses how as a teen or young adult, everyone wants to fit in and act and dress the same way; I agree and disagree, I think that we want to fit in, but we all want to put our own twist to things. Being in the in crowd doesn’t necessarily mean you fit in, it may mean that you just so happen to make friends with one popular person and become a part of their clique. Spinelli pulls and tugs at my brain, forcing me to question whether or not the students at Mica High were just afraid to be different because of what their peers would have to say or what would happen after they challenged their former beliefs. Would they blow themselves away with the knowledge they gained after breaking away or would they deem themselves demented for thinking differently?

    Spinelli uses aporia to display how Leo questions himself and how his insecurities lead to the demise of Stargirl. Spinelli does a great job of encapsulating the idea of identity and individuality also allowing his young adult audience to tackle issues like peer pressure and acceptance of all no matter their attire, behavior and background. All in all, Stargirl was the epitome of a real human being, someone who genuinely cared for others, freely expressed herself and decided that no matter how unknowledgeable and conformed as people were, she would be who she was. The only thing to fear in life is yourself, look deep within and you will find the real you, not the person created to fit in to this bubble we call society.

  12. balor321 says:

    In Defense Of The “In” Crowd
    Stargirl stops just short of stating that there’s something wrong with established social conventions. That sentiment would be fine if in the service of doing so the author didn’t prop up someone who implies through her behavior that those at the center of things are misguided. Writers are (generally) not the center of things- It can often be hard to express ones thoughts without the distance provided by perspective. The problem occurs when the sacrifice of those in a position of accountability is discounted.
    It’s fairly easy to judge people who are willing to sacrifice limbs to be popular when you’re the kid who can see and express people’s insecurities and vulnerabilities. It’s different when you lack the self confidence to set yourself apart. In my experience popular people are often the ones with the deepest scars. In that light Stargirls kiss seemed not like a turning of the other cheek but read instead as a willful insult. It was an acknowledgment that she has the luxury of transcending jealousy and self doubt- and a reminder that those who cannot are worthy of little other than her pity.
    Her appearance on the Hot Seat illustrated this perfectly to me- she sat there not as the judged party that was the literary fig leaf to set the scene but as the judge and jury of her peers. Their vitriol feels as the passage is read as much a reaction towards their own pain and insecurity as towards her aspirations. If the intent of this text is to underline the value of individualism then it fell short for me. If anything this underlined the hollowness of individualism- to be a true individual means being a true alien which was something Susan never could quite manage.
    She sets herself in opposition to the status quo sure but her actions were reactions not acts derived from her own impulses. Similarly Leo’s need to conform is in its own way individual- he sees the skein of the social fabric clearly and establishes a comfortable nook in the knowledge that a complete break would destroy him. So he fades off into middle American obscurity not a legend- but at least a real human being.

  13. Yuliana Baez says:

    I really did not know what to expect when I first started reading this book. I have heard about the book before in high school but never really thought about picking it up. First looking at the cover I thought that this book was going to be about a little girl and her adventures. I mean come on what comes to your mind when you hear a title like that. Honestly, I did not think I was going to like it.

    As I started to read the book I was really surprised that I can relate so much to this book. It’s not because I went through a similar situation but the fact that almost ever teenager that went to high school has witnessed this at one point. Even to this day in college you can still see some of these internal conflicts happening.

    The whole moral to this story to be yourself and don’t care what everyone else does, or thinks. You have to cherish every moment and never look back, and to value not the thought of others, but the thoughts of ones you love. Stargirl was the ideal persona of this. Although, this was the moral of the story there was an underlining message behind it. This was shown through Leo. Leo was so caught up at one point with what everyone thought about him and Stargirl being together. He felt that people would judge him. If he would have thought to think maybe he would’ve realized that he was the loser because he was missing out on the one thing he loved and that same thing loved him back. I think that it was brilliant to have the narrator be Leo because it gives us the perspective of someone who was “normal.” This is the seat that most of us who are reading this book are looking from. We are all sucked into societal pressure that some of us don’t even have a thought of our own. They really did not have any reason to hate Stargirl so much.

    I would recommend this book to all high school students. By reading this book though I don’t think that it will open up their eyes and change the way they act because of how society is already constructed.

  14. Shane Samuel says:

    Before reading the story I did not know what to expect. Was it going to be about a girl who dreams of becoming an actress or was it going to be the typical “girl falls for boy next door” story that is often written. At first I did not realize that the main character was a boy until I heard his name; once I found this out I found myself better with the narrator. The nonconformist message of the novel was extremely moving because it demonstrated how nearly everyone seeks the approval of others, even if they claim not to. I viewed Stargirl (aka Susan) as a metaphor for the fear of different. People tend to cast out what they feel is strange or abnormal, which made me think about the way some people feel about the LGBTQ… community. It kills me to know that in 2011 there are people are so quick to single out a group they feel is not in line with the social norms and declare them “weird.”

    While reading the book I found myself wishing that I was as brave as Stargirl, wearing, doing, and saying whatever I pleased; not caring what anyone else thinks. I believe that is why Stargirl was so happy, she did not think of herself as different or weird, she thought of herself as Stargirl. Forgive me for sounding a bit cheesy but if a lot more people had that Stargirl mentality then maybe the world would be a much better place. In addition, Mr. Spinelli does a great job at demonstrating how conforming to the masses causes more hurt than good. You are no longer true to yourself. Instead you are becoming a number.

  15. Lindsay Webster says:

    For some reason, I think I’ll always remember Stargirl as one of those books that as a kid I under-valued, despite how much I loved it. It’s weird how a person can love something so thoroughly, and find out years later that they didn’t even know it at all.

    I compare Stargirl to Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, for only one reason that relates nothing to the actual plot of the books. I’ve read them both many times, separated by years during which I forget how special they are. I think as a silly kid, I loved Stargirl for it’s love story, and yet now after reading it I’m struck by what a strange love story it is- it’s almost disguised as one; it’s a twisted book of relationships: Stargirl and Leo, Leo and Himself, Stargirl and Herself, the two of them against the school, and against the school as individuals. When I was younger I romanticized relationships by just the thought of a “we,” of never moving as a single individual, because with a partner you’re constantly tied together, orbiting around each other and the rest of the world. I saw that in Stargirl this time, but instead of with Stargirl and Leo, I saw it with almost every other relationship in the book.

    It was really one of the most striking things about the book that I don’t think I ever realized before. In the beginning, Leo is one of The Rest- he moves within his school and talks about his school as if they are one entity. All his early descriptions of Stargirl are “we thought this”- for example, when Stargirl becomes a cheerleader and the teams start to win games, on pg 51 he says, “no longer were we comfortable losing.” Further down the page he ironically says, “When we spoke of [our team], we used the word “we” instead of “they.” Which is exactly what he does throughout the book…

    But only UNTILLLLLL he and Stargirl begin to face the opposition together. Suddenly the school is “them” and he and Stargirl are “us.” On page 97 he talks to Kevin, and in one of the most interesting exchanges in the book he questions the social quota. Kevin says “they’re not talking to her,” and Leo asks, “Who is ‘they’?”
    “Nobody’s talking to her.” Leo wonders how the general consensus became the silent treatment. Did they have a meeting? But he never realizes that that’s exactly what he always did; he had always aligned himself with the majority, and he only realized the strangeness when he was left facing them, an outcast. Honestly, it’s kind of annoying…

    Lastly I just want to note something that struck me on page 43. Stargirl had just said yes to coming on Hot Seat. Leo says, “This didn’t fit my impression of her. I didn’t know that this was an early glimpse of something I was soon to see much more of: behind the dazzling talents and differentness, she was far more normal than I had realized.”
    What’s interesting to me is that in a normal society where you don’t have a Stargirl (though maybe there’s a Stargirl in everyone…. Ignore that) it’s more common to think that behind all of our conformity and “normalness” we are all incredibly different; we’re individuals- or it’s hammered into us, almost to the point of being clichéd, that despite all our differences we’re the same. This book challenges what I think of as “normal.” And which are we really, to inspire the sayings- are we all so different and that makes us the same? Or are we meant to push past the things that make us the same, and see our differences, which in the end make us feel more connected and related to other people, and therefore make us all the same?

  16. balor321 says:

    This is not to say that Leo is somehow heroic- quite the contrary he is calculating indulging in emotion as a thrill not as something of substance. It’s unreasonable to expect Susan to behave differently just as it’s unreasonable for her to hope for anything less than disappointment from Leo. He’s a comfort to her- someone she knows will be there in the end no matter what might happen- someone she can cling to. To Leo she is everything- a fantasy made flesh and blood almost. Surprisingly this dynamic make the surrealist penultimate scene in the book resonate rather than fall short.
    So yes the fact remains that “Stargirl” is as much a device as a character- but she’s a rather wicked device one born of envy and sad summer memories.

  17. lmaalexander says:

    The ending of Stargirl was my favorite part of the book. I loved how Leo was still thinking about Stargirl even years after they knew each other and how she was obviously still thinking of him since she sent him the porcupine tie. I also really liked the relationship that Leo had with Archie at the end. Archie was still his mentor and confidant even though Leo himself was an adult.

    Determining who this book is really about took me quite awhile. Yes, Leo is narrating it and Stargirl’s name is the title but I don’t think it’s really about either of them. I felt that the book was instead about all of the characters trying to find their place in high school and, ultimately, beyond. The term “normal” is constantly used. It’s what everyone is striving to be, yet there is really no definition of what it means to be “normal”. This struggle to fit into this mold and blend with the crowd is what drives the entire story.

    What I found most interesting about this novel is the relationship that develops between Leo and Stargirl. At one point Leo describes Stargirl as “She was bendable light: she shone around every corner of my day.” This blissful infatuation is something that every high schooler can easily relate to. The feelings of being so caught up and lost in someone else is something that any reader will be able to connect to. What makes this story different, of course, is that Stargirl is not the average teenage girl. She is everything that Leo has been taught to avoid. She doesn’t let anyone else define her and this is both terrifying and intriguing to Leo. Her differences are what attract Leo to her in the beginning but ultimately they are also what drives him away from her in the end.

  18. sbuckleit says:

    Interesting idea. Are you sure Leo wanted to make her happy? It seemed to me that Stargirl already was happy… her Happy Wagon was full of stones even when the students were ostracizing her. The reason Leo pressured her to become ‘normal’ was because he didn’t want to have to choose between her and the rest of the students, which certainly is not a noble cause. I loved reading your opinion!

  19. Daphney Etienne says:

    When I was in the 8th grade, I remember Stargirl was always on the class’ bookshelves. It always seems like it’s the one book that no one wanted to read. I remembered picking it up once, and after a few pages, put it right back down. I just couldn’t get into it.

    Reading this book now, I see why I could not get into it. The writing style, which I’,m sure we’re going to go over in class, is like nothing like the other books I was reading in JHS. It’s a quick read, but the writing style is very sophisticated; it’s unlike any of the series books that I was reading in 8th grade.

    My favorite thing about this book is the structure. The story is sad. And Spinelli doesn’t say how sad it is, instead he uses the writing and structure to speak for itself. The book starts with a short vignette of Leo reminiscing. This already sets the sad tone of the rest of the novel. The short chapters also add to this in that we are presented the story of Stargirl as snap shots. So we don’t read the story as one continuous story, but rather as “a day in the life.” (So much more I can say, but I’ll avoid doing a rhetorical analysis)

    Even if I did get through this book in 8th grade, my thirteen year old self would not have been able to understand and relate as well as I do now. (I probably would have seen this as a story about a strange girl who goes to HS and no one liked her, and she moves.) This story teaches us lessons on individuality and conformity, issues that people deal with all their lives.

    The most interesting character, more than Stargirl, is Archie. His physical presence is minor, but when he is present, his wise words are major. For example, Archie tells him that, “and I think every once in a while someone comes along who is a little more primitive than the rest of us, a little closer to our beginnings, a little more in touch with the stuff we’re made of.” My 13 year old self would never have caught the meaning of this, and if I did, I know for a fact that I would have never been able to relate and really understand this very powerful statement.

    After reading this book, I had to ask myself, if there is a lot, in terms of language, that a young adult wouldn’t be able to understand, should this novel be classified as a young adult novel? I immediately thought of course. I realize that in terms of reading development, this novel is perfect. It could really challenge readers to ask why. In addition, I realize that this novel gives a very unique reading experience than most young adult novels. No matter what level of reading one is at, one can’t help but read this novel differently because of the structure, and the many rhetorical devices used.

  20. kbronner says:

    I feel like Stargirl was least happy when Leo was “trying” to make her happy. It seems to me that he was trying to change her to make himself happy…to be more secure with being involved with her.

  21. sbuckleit says:

    I like the point you make about pre-high school kids needing to read this book… Although it takes place in high school, it’s written on a level that younger kids can understand, so that kids will be aware of the pressure of conformity as they go into high school. Maybe we need a pre-middle school version of Star Girl… at least in my school system middle school was all about conformity, where as high school-ers tended to be much more accepting.

  22. Celeste Smith says:

    Although I never read Stargirl as a younger adult, I know many people who did, as early as fifth grade. Stargirl deals with the complex and interweaving issue of conformity and popularity. In my opinion, these issues do not become prevalent until sometime in middle school, roughly ages eleven through thirteen, not during the elementary years. I imagine Spinelli’s intended audience to be adolescents aged twelve and up. Although they might not be in the midst of the pressure of conformity at that age, they are old enough to understand what is going on, and hopefully the message of the book: being yourself, even if it appears different than everyone else, is the best policy, although you will encounter struggles along the way. I think in a sense, that it would be ideal for teens to read this book prior or at the start of high school, so they could arm themselves with this message.
    I think Spinelli was quite clear throughout the book what the message was and who the book was really about- Leo. I never doubted, despite the title, that Leo was the real focus and felt more connection and emotion with him. For example, I was so disappointed when he was going to go into the courtyard to congratulate the Ukee Dooks, but then couldn’t bare embarrassing himself.
    My first read of Spinelli’s Stargirl was very insightful into the complex ways of conformity and reminded me of the challenges of not only high school, but developing and trying to discover your identity.