Nanjiba Recommends: Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

Jerry Spinelli grew up in rural Pennsylvania and went to college at Gettysburg College and Johns Hopkins University. He has published more than 25 books and has six children and 16 grandchildren. Spinelli began writing aged 16 after his high school football team won a big game. He went home and wrote a poem about it which was published in the local paper. Spinelli then decided to become a writer, instead of his childhood dream of being a cowboy or basketball player. He writes about events and feelings from his own childhood; and also gets a lot of material from his seven adventurous kids! Spinelli and his wife, Eileen, also a children’s book author, live in Pennsylvania. His books include: Maniac Magee, Milkweed, Loser, Wringer, Crash, Eggs, Jake and Lilly and Smiles to Go.

This review is about his 2002 book Stargirl, an enjoyable read for young people ages 13-15, but personally I think it’s a nice book with a message behind it for anyone. Here’s the Goodreads’ synopsis:

From the day she arrives at quiet Mica High in a burst of colour and sound, the hallways hum with the murmur of her name “Stargirl, Stargirl.” She captures Leo Borlock’ s heart with just one smile. She sparks a school-spirit revolution with just one cheer and at first, the students of Mica High are enchanted. That is until they turn on her. Stargirl is suddenly shunned for everything that makes her different, and Leo, panicked and desperate with love, urges her to become the very thing that can destroy her: being normal. This is a tale about the perils of popularity and the thrill and inspiration of first love.

What captivated me most about the book was the message behind it. Spenelli has the reader experience the story with Leo Borlock as the narrator. We get to understand this charismatic girl and how others view her throughout her journey of acceptance from his point of view. I feel that Spenelli did this on purpose because although it would be interesting to know what goes on in the mind of a girl who has a pet rat, changes her name every now and then, likes to sing songs and send presents to people who don’t know her well- there is a reason we, as the readers, are experiencing the character from someone more normal in society, someone who fits in as an everyday person. I think the reason behind that is because although our main male lead believes he’s helping someone shunned by society for being different we, as the readers, begin to understand that this need to blend in with the crowd is making the female lead unhappy, as well as creating more problems than solutions. From this I gather that the message behind the book is about nonconformity, don’t change yourself to be liked by others and there are people out there who will dislike you regardless of what you do. So, the important thing is to do what makes you happy as an individual, not be influenced by the majority. In other words, this book is a reminder for anyone who feels like they have to follow the crowd: You do you. Individuality exists for a reason, embrace it.


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