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Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

Stargirl (2000)

by Jerry Spinelli

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
6,151281662 (3.96)133
  1. 40
    Love, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli (missnickynack)
    missnickynack: Its the sequel to Stargirl and it is equally as good.
  2. 11
    Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block (kaionvin)
  3. 00
    Every Soul A Star by Wendy Mass (RidgewayGirl)
  4. 00
    Looking for Alaska by John Green (fyrefly98)
    fyrefly98: More average-boy-meets-life-changing-girl.
  5. 11
    Paper Towns by John Green (strandedon8jo)
  6. 00
    Becoming Chloe by Catherine Ryan Hyde (stephxsu)
    stephxsu: Similarly innocent-but-wise female character.
  7. 01
    Loser by Jerry Spinelli (bookel)

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» See also 133 mentions

English (276)  Italian (2)  Finnish (1)  All languages (279)
Showing 1-5 of 276 (next | show all)
Spinelli takes high school archetypes, social hierarchies, adolescence, quirky girls, and first loves to a fresh, new level. This is entirely different, and the interlocking imagery and themes make this story an equally appropriate book for a 7th grade English class, as a graduate level writing workshop, if not a philosophy course.

The simple title, Stargirl, refers to the curious character who the protagonist, Leo, is trying to figure out. Stargirl, as well as the novel, are enchanting, unforgettable, but not overwhelming. Spinelli crafted Stargirl so smoothly that the seeds of particular moral themes are very subtly embedded, as if he were throwing scraps--or, more fittingly-- tossing 'spare change' for the readers to find, but it's left to the reader to collect this 'spare change' and add it up to see what it amounts to. Neither the character Stargirl, nor the fairly obvious theme of embracing individuality, are two dimensional or forced. The reader has the option to allow Spinelli's words to grow into morals, and it was refreshing to have the space, as a reader, to choose whether or not I wanted to focus on a particular moral agenda. Inescapable, however, and thankfully so, was the salient imagery of naming and the power it holds to conceive identity.

"Stargirl" is the name she has given herself; it is not her legal name,. In reference to such an odd name and Leo's bafflement by it, Archie, a retired paleontologist, says, "Every name is real. That's the nature of names. [...] Why be stuck with just one your whole life?" Leo and Archie's pointed discussion about Stargirl's name is the only instance within the book that Spinelli so blatantly suggests that naming and identity may have a symbiotic sort of relationship. However, though it may go unsaid, the story follows a pattern that portrays naming, that is, the moment in which a thing is acknowledged in an intentional way, as the action that allows the thing to 'become'. What it becomes isn't really up to the one who acknowledges (that is, names) it, but the act of naming seems to breathe into it the potential for becoming.

I don't think it could have been incidental that Spinelli's characters and events evolve at a particularly heightened rate after Stargirl has acknowledged them specifically through acts of naming. When Stargirl truly takes hold of a person or an event (because that's how she functions-- no one merely befriends or interacts with Stargirl; Stargirl takes hold of people) it starts with her intentionally and specifically acknowledging the person or event in a naming fashion. For instance, Leo is forever changed the minute Stargirl looks up to him and says, "Hi, Leo"; the entire school is brought to life after she sings Happy Birthday directly to individuals in the lunchroom; otherwise faceless passersby in the mall or children on her block have (at least imagined) realities once she names them (or calls them by the name they call themselves). Likewise, characters who Stargirl does not 'name' remain fairly impotent throughout the duration of the novel, e.g. Hillary, who refused to accept the Happy Birthday song. After Hillary refuses to be sung to by name, then regardless of the memorable speaking role she had in the novel before Stargirl entered the storyline, Hillary's role remains fairly stagnate from that point on.

The naming imagery happens overtly as well subtly, though. In a more abstract way, Stargirl is shown 'naming' through cheerleading. Her actions while cheering breathe new life into the school and, in an otherwise forgettable high school, she forges a spirit so deep that traditions are formed-- long-lasting traditions that continue for over a decade, even. Also, she 'names' in that she bestows an identity on the metaphorical 'fillers' in life: she reads the newspaper columns and uncovers realities others would've missed, she befriends the dorky freshman who would've otherwise existed in the lunchroom background, and she acknowledges the happiness as well as the suffering of strangers. When Stargirl notices and calls attention to (i.e., names and/or acknowledges) strangers, especially those who are either very sad or very happy, it brings about much controversy. The controversy, as I see it, only contributes to the notion that intentional acknowledgment, that is, proverbial naming, affects and creates realities in this story.

The imagery of naming runs deep and structures the novel, but Spinelli never says it aloud, he never warns the reader, he never drills it in. Things get named. Things named have the opportunity to become something, but there isn't permanence in their existence-- naming isn't enough to sustain new reality. Leo wasn't able to fully break the mold and embrace a genuine sense of individuality; the school spirit didn't remain just because Stargirl was a cheerleader; the events at the dance were never the same in the following years when the class tried to recreate them. Only one character brought to 'life' by Stargirl systematically and consistently develops throughout the novel: Dori Dilson. Though Dori never becomes 'the popular' girl, nor does her character have too many active roles, she seems to be the sole character with substantial ability to sustain the life that the conceptive power of naming allowed her (as evidenced by her persistent lunchroom presence, disappearance during Stargirl's 'popular' facade, begrudged reappearance after Stargirl's competition, and spotlighted escort service to the dance).

Before her championship speech contest, Stargirl's teacher, Mr. McShane, tells her the name of an extinct bird, the Moa. Mr. McShane insinuates that the Moa were killed off because their magnificence was so astounding, but he isn't sure whether the Moa had a voice. Stargirl names her award winning speech, "I Might Have Heard a Moa," then soon thereafter, she disappears from the novel as randomly as she appeared.

Leo sometimes wonders whether the stories he hears or the events he witnesses may be related to Stargirl. Archie thought mockingbirds may "imitate the sounds of birds that are no longer around [...like] pitching fossils into the air [...singing the] songs of ancient creatures." It would seem, though Spinelli never says it, that Stargirl's influence, like the prehistoric Moa tune we perhaps hear through contemporary mockingbirds' voices, continues through time. A power like Stargirl's lasts forever, possibly because, as Archie tells Leo, she was "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."

This was a truly enjoyable book-- it took me by surprise and I never would've guessed that a book designed for young adults could be so rich! I imagine I'll see something new in every time I re-read Stargirl. ( )
  jamdwhitt | Apr 6, 2015 |
it was about a really "hippy like" free spirit girl and the school and a boy's interaction with her. It was very "tweenish" but he painted a great picture of Stargirl. I would not mind reading it again. ( )
  KamGeb | Apr 4, 2015 |
Great book about being yourself!
  LisaMarie214 | Mar 26, 2015 |
This sad story is about a boy who loves a (at first) popular girl. though, when she becomes unpopular he must decide if he should stay with her or be accepted. This tale helps kids realize the importance of friendship, being your self, and helps them relate to big decisions. This would be good as a free-read for kids.
  harleybrenton | Mar 12, 2015 |
Not knowing better, I read Love Stargirl, the second book of the two, written from Stargirl's POV, before reading Stargirl, the first of the two and written from Leo's POV. As it turns out, they can be read out of order without confusion and I'm not disappointed to have made my mistake, except for one simple fact... Stargirl seems to have a "finally" ending whereas Love Stargirl seems to have an open ending -- open for a follow-up. I want more Stargirl!!!!! ( )
  olongbourn | Mar 1, 2015 |
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Awards and honors
To Eileen, my Stargirl
And to Loren Eiseley, who taught that even as we are, we are becoming
And to Sonny Liston
First words
When I was little, my uncle Pete had a necktie with a porcupine painted on it.
I don't want to be like nobody.
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Disambiguation notice
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Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
Star girl is an extrodinary gilr. shes not the average teenage you would see on a daily basis. At first a everyonf likes her, they even ask her to be in the cheerleading squad. She has a high spirit in supporting everyone she meets. Some people thinks shes too wierd to hang around with but they end up sitting with her during lunch and even follow along when shes singing happy-birthdsy to someone they dont even know.

Righ now im in the middle of the book and just read that she likes Leo. she actually told him he was cute and now they are hanging out everyday. everyday after school they go uot in the dessert and meditate on being empty (as in not tinkng on anything or thinking about thinking.). on other occasions they go to the mall and play this game that stargirl invented. this yong couple is just right for each other since either one of them is ashamed of each other. Leo, is very popular, but when they are both together holding hands nobody wants ot talk to Leo or Stargirl. Ever since Stargirl helped a player from the other team, they all have hated her. thats the reason why nobody watns to talk to them when they are together or just Stargirl alone.

I just finished the book and im very surprised on the ending that happend.

Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0440416779, Mass Market Paperback)

"She was homeschooling gone amok." "She was an alien." "Her parents were circus acrobats." These are only a few of the theories concocted to explain Stargirl Caraway, a new 10th grader at Arizona's Mica Area High School who wears pioneer dresses and kimonos to school, strums a ukulele in the cafeteria, laughs when there are no jokes, and dances when there is no music. The whole school, not exactly a "hotbed of nonconformity," is stunned by her, including our 16-year-old narrator Leo Borlock: "She was elusive. She was today. She was tomorrow. She was the faintest scent of a cactus flower, the flitting shadow of an elf owl."

In time, incredulity gives way to out-and-out adoration as the student body finds itself helpless to resist Stargirl's wide-eyed charm, pure-spirited friendliness, and penchant for celebrating the achievements of others. In the ultimate high school symbol of acceptance, she is even recruited as a cheerleader. Popularity, of course, is a fragile and fleeting state, and bit by bit, Mica sours on their new idol. Why is Stargirl showing up at the funerals of strangers? Worse, why does she cheer for the opposing basketball teams? The growing hostility comes to a head when she is verbally flogged by resentful students on Leo's televised Hot Seat show in an episode that is too terrible to air. While the playful, chin-held-high Stargirl seems impervious to the shunning that ensues, Leo, who is in the throes of first love (and therefore scornfully deemed "Starboy"), is not made of such strong stuff: "I became angry. I resented having to choose. I refused to choose. I imagined my life without her and without them, and I didn't like it either way."

Jerry Spinelli, author of Newbery Medalist Maniac Magee, Newbery Honor Book Wringer, and many other excellent books for teens, elegantly and accurately captures the collective, not-always-pretty emotions of a high school microcosm in which individuality is pitted against conformity. Spinelli's Stargirl is a supernatural teen character--absolutely egoless, altruistic, in touch with life's primitive rhythms, meditative, untouched by popular culture, and supremely self-confident. It is the sensitive Leo whom readers will relate to as he grapples with who she is, who he is, who they are together as Stargirl and Starboy, and indeed, what it means to be a human being on a planet that is rich with wonders. (Ages 10 to 14) --Karin Snelson

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:58:17 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

In this story about the perils of popularity, the courage of nonconformity, and the thrill of first love, an eccentric student named Stargirl changes Mica High School forever.

» see all 9 descriptions

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