Stargirl, by Jerry Spinelli, was the next unread book sitting on my shelf. This one, like the first, is fairly short. No judgment! I promise I’m not filling up 100 spaces with bathroom reads.
This novel is every teenager’s worst nightmare, and I feel like if I had read it at that time of my life, it would have had an entirely different meaning for me than it does today.
The basic plot is that a peculiar girl abandons her homeschooling for the real high school experience and gets burned. Not that hard to imagine, really. Homeschool can make people peculiar, and high school children are raging assholes. I was once in high school and I was an asshole. So I tried to process this book through both filters, which I’ll elaborate on below.
There are moments in the book; pivotal moments where Stargirl does what can only be classified as really weird shit. Not just weird on a juvenile level, but weird for any human person. So while I feel like I can appreciate odd behavior a little more than my teenage self, there were still some head-scratching moments for me. I’m going to give each a mention and the corresponding response from adult me versus teenage me.
Stargirl only wears period costume clothing. Adult me found this refreshing because our differences make the world a more beautiful place. Teenage me was too grossed out by the use of the word “period” in that sentence to have an opinion.
Stargirl carries a ukulele and serenades her peers publicly in the cafeteria on their birthdays. Adult me thought this action endearing. Teenage me was mortified for anyone subjected by this treatment because high school is about being better, prettier, more popular, or otherwise remaining hidden for fear of social rejection. Stargirl is ruining everyone’s life!
Stargirl proclaims her love to the narrator of the story in a sudden, unexpected turn of events. Adult me smiles at the mention of first crushes and young puppy love. Teenage me feels like she’s trying to make herself more popular and is a little bitter that it might work because Jake Wyler can make anyone prom queen. (If you didn’t get that reference stop reading and go watch Not Another Teen Movie right now. Before there was Captain America’s shield, there was Jake Wyler’s banana split.)
Stargirl becomes a cheerleader and cheers for the opposing side along with her home team at every basketball game. Adult me feels like this is somewhat embarrassing for everyone. Teenage me votes to have her booted to the mat maids with the other half of the cheer squad. Because screw you, Torrance, this is not a cheerocracy!
Stargirl tracks the local newspaper for personal stories on the neighboring townsfolk, delivering birthday cards and celebrating special events with perfect strangers. At one point she even attends the funeral of someone in town who she does not know personally. Multiple versions of me are thinking, what the actual fuck? Who attends random funerals? In any case, she gets kicked out of said funeral, which is supposed to be sad but is actually a completely normal reaction from the family of the deceased.
This was a good book. It questioned the ideals of what is normal and challenged the status quo. With that said, Stargirl herself lacks the basic social skills necessary to hold down a job or maintain any healthy relationship. Many times throughout the story I almost felt sorry for her. Not because people couldn’t accept her weird, but because she was so ridiculously clueless it was distressing. She was the other side of the teenage extreme, her moods swinging wildly in the direction of hopeful optimism. It was an interesting story and it stayed true to the reality of Stargirl’s situation, and in turn her very existence.
“She’s got glasses and ponytail! She’s got paint on her overalls! What is that?”
– Captain America