by Jerry Spinelli
Knopf, May, 2002.
Trade paperback, 192 pages.
Ages Young Adult
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When Stargirl was originally published in hardcover in August, 2000, it attracted widespread acclaim as the Publisher's Weekly Best Book of the Year, Parents' Choice Gold Award Winner, and an ALA Top Ten Best Books award. It went through eight printings and was a New York Times Bestseller. Stargirl is now published in paperback, so it should become even more widely known.
The story of Stargirl is the tale of what happens to those who are different in an American public high school. Recognized for what it really is in this story, the over conforming and intolerant culture of the American public high school is set in an Mica, Arizona, a town that is built around the electronics industry. Stargirl is a new student who was previously home schooled but has decided on making more friends by attending the local high school. The story is told by Leo Borlock, a fellow student, who has found his own niche by inventing with a friend a TV show called Hot Seat. Hot Seat features an interview of a local high school teen by an interviewer and a jury that can ask questions of the interviewee. Stargirl arrives on campus and she immediately attracts attention because she is very different. She plays a ukelele, keeps a pet rat in her tote bag, treats everyone with kindness and serenades them in the lunchroom on their birthdays. The other students are aghast. Then Stargirl becomes even more outrageous by attending the football game of the perennially losing team. Her antics are so outrageous at sports events that everyone actually starts attending, and to everyone's surprise, the teams start winning. Stargirl is invited to be a cheerleader, and she actually is very good and begins to be well liked. But Stargirl cheers for every touchdown and basket (even the other team's), and this completely baffles the student body and then turns them against her.
Things begin to change for Stargirl and for Leo Borlock, who has fallen in love with her. Leo actually finds himself suggesting that Stargirl become more like the other students, "normal". But when Stargirl studies hard about how to become "normal," it makes things worse. Fitting in does not work, so she returns to being herself. The big surprise comes when Stargirl shows up at the Octillo prom as herself. Her final triumph is a complete surprise to everyone, and it somehow leaves a lasting impression that endures through class reunions.
Stargirl deserves the respect it has achieved; it will undoubtedly reach even more readers now that it has been published in paperback form.
--Sarah Reaves White
Reprinted with permission from The Internet Writing Journal®.
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