A book review for parents
This romantic, slice-of-life book is not in a series but it does have a sequel. Written by Jerry Spinelli, Stargirl is published by Knopf Books, a division of Random House, Inc., and written for kids ages 10 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
No one knows how to react to the new girl at Mica High. She wears long pioneer dresses, sings to people in the cafeteria and calls herself Stargirl. The students are stunned at first, then enamored by the passionate young lady who leads cheers for their mediocre sports teams and brings about a revival of school spirit. Leo, the story's shy narrator, finds himself attracted to her, and she returns his affection. But when Stargirl starts cheering not only for her school's team, but also for the other teams during a game — and the school's sports team starts losing — everyone turns on Stargirl. At Leo's suggestion, Stargirl tries to become more like everyone else so she can fit in better. In doing so, Stargirl begins to surrender everything that made her special and unique.
When Leo tells his mentor, Archie, (see "Authority roles") that the kids at school are ignoring him and Stargirl, Archie mentions the Amish practice of "shunning." He explains that sometimes someone who sins is excommunicated from the church and completely ignored by the whole community until he repents.
Archibald "Archie" Brubaker is a former paleontologist and teacher, who still offers makeshift classes on Saturdays to interested local kids. While he demonstrates genuine friendship and concern for Leo and his other students, he also has peculiar and/or negative beliefs and habits. He smokes, talks to the cactus in his backyard and shares his mystical/evolution-based views with his students. Leo describes Stargirl's parent as "normal" (as opposed to their daughter). They support and praise her and don't seem particularly surprised when she succeeds in the speech competition. Mr. McShane is a good-natured teacher who drives Stargirl and Leo to the speech contest and stays to support his student.
Other Belief Systems
Stargirl meditates in her "enchanted" place in the desert. She tells Leo that she tries to "erase herself" so she can feel the earth and universe speaking to her without her own senses getting in the way. Stargirl has a vision that she's going to win the speech contest (which she does). Archie shares his humanistic theories with Leo and later claims people originally came from stars.
The word crap appears once or twice.
After Stargirl kisses Leo, he says, "That was no saint kissing me." The text specifically notes that Leo and Stargirl have separate rooms while they're staying at a hotel for Stargirl's speech contest. After a mean classmate slaps Stargirl, she kisses the bully on the cheek.
ALA Top 10 Best Books for Young Adults, 2001; a Publishers Weekly Best Book, 2000; and more.
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
- What aspects of this story seem realistic?
What parts seem more like a fairy tale?
What is the difference between the two?
- How much of your identity should be based on what others think of you?
How much of it is?
How did Jesus handle people's negative opinions of Him?
Did their mean words make Him a different person on the inside?
- To what degree is conformity necessary — and maybe even good? Give examples.
To what degree is conformity unnecessary — and perhaps not good? Give examples.
Where is the balance between these two elements?
- What did you think of the way Stargirl said the Pledge of Allegiance?
Was she being herself or being disrespectful?
- How did you feel about Stargirl giving up her true identity for a while just to make Leo happy?
Was that an act of love?
Did Leo love Stargirl?
Would a person who really loves you ask you to change your core personality for the sake of popularity (or some other purpose)?
- Was Archie a good role model for Leo? Why or why not?
- What were some ways that Stargirl brought out the beauty in her world?
Did you get any ideas about how you could be more aware of the beauty in everyday things and/or improve the lives of those around you?
- What did you think about the way Stargirl meditated and tried to "erase" herself?
Is meditation a good or a bad thing?
What might be some ways to meditate on God?
What is dangerous about meditating on things, such as nature or the universe?
There are Stargirl Societies (clubs) in schools across the nation. Members are encouraged to develop their creativity and demonstrate secret random acts of kindness.
Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.