YA Favorite: Stargirl

Stargirl (©2000) is a young adult novel by Jerry Spinelli, author of the Newberry Medal winner Maniac Magee. Leo Borlock, a junior at Mica High School, narrates the story. Conformity reigns supreme at Mica High, a place where the popular kids gain their popularity from being utterly ordinary.

“[Wayne Parr] played on no sports team, joined no organization, won no awards, earned no A’s. He was elected to nothing, honored for nothing – and yet…he was the grand marshal of our daily parade.”

As explained by Leo, one of the most idolized boys in school had achieved popularity from being completely unexceptional. For the student body at Mica High, being “regular” was admired more than any other trait.

When Susan “Stargirl” Caraway arrives at Mica High School, her presence is met with only confusion, incredulity, and fear. Stargirl is individuality to the extreme. Who is this peculiar girl with the strange clothing and the ukulele? The other students avoid her at first, which doesn’t seem to bother Stargirl at all. At lunch, she goes table to table singing “Happy Birthday” to kids who have never even spoken to her before. After the initial shock wears off, the student body begins to take a liking to Stargirl. People find her unyielding enthusiasm entertaining, and she is even invited to join the cheerleading squad.

Soon after, however, Stargirl’s classmates find her weirdness to be more than they can tolerate. The student body turn on Stargirl, rejecting her – even hating her – for being so different from them.  And when shy Leo falls for Stargirl, he encourages her to be more “normal” to win back her popularity.

At first, Stargirl seems to be a merely a caricature of eccentricity, a girl so unusual that anyone in their right mind might wonder if she was for real. But beneath her goofy exterior, she is a person of unflinching kindness. Stargirl spends every minute of her spare time carrying out random acts of goodwill, without even a thought of recognition or reward. Stargirl celebrates everything that its title character represents, by exhibiting a lesson in overcoming intolerance through nonconformity. It is humorous and sad at the same time, and an engrossing read from start to finish.

Recommended for ages 12+.

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