Title: Star Girl
Rating: 4 of 5 Converse
Star Girl is a short novel written by Jerry Spinelli. It is a contemporary tale about conformity, popularity, and how far teenagers will go to make sure they’re involved with the “in” crowd.
When Leo arrives back at school after break, there is an insane amount of talk flitting through the halls of his high school. While at first he isn’t sure who it’s about – maybe one of the nerd girls came back super hot? – he soon finds out when he sits with his best friend Kevin at lunch. There is new girl in school, and her name is Stargirl.
As if her name isn’t curious enough, Leo quickly realizes what all the fuss over her is about. Stargirl is the new tenth grader at Mica Area High School, although she was homeschooled most of her life. She has a pet rat named Cinnamon that she carries everywhere. She strums her ukulele, dances, and sings whenever she feels like it. And, on top of all of that, she wears the weirdest clothes – pioneer dress and long, flowing skirts.
She is unique, she is amazing, and she is very, very weird.
While Star Girl is the laughing stock of the school at first, she soon grows on all of the students. Stargirl is brave enough to be different, and that is something that nobody in school has dared to be in a very long time. She inspires them – soon the students are coming to school with different clothes or dyed hair, breaking the conformity that has held them in strict place for so long.
And Leo falls hopelessly in love with her.
Stargirl becomes so popular at school that she’s recruited by the cheerleaders in hopes that her enthusiastic energy with help them gain more support at their school’s football and basketball games. They’ve always had crappy teams, and thus fewer and fewer people show up in the stands every year. But as soon as Stargirl is a cheerleader, that changes. Not only does she draw in a crowd and light them up, her energy also empowers their football and basketball teams to do better. Before Mica Area High School knows it, they are winning games after being incredible losers for so long.
However, as soon as they becomes winners, they forget how to lose.
Stargirl is different. That much is true. And she is loved for her differences, especially as a cheerleader, until their teams start winning.
Stargirl is passionate about everything she does, and cheerleading is no exception. She cheers for the other teams because she feels they deserve it. If a member of the other team gets hurt, she is there to check on them and make sure they’re okay.
As soon as Mica Area High School starts winning games, Stargirl’s compassion for others is viewed as traitorous.
Instead of being welcomed for her differences, Stargirl starts to get shunned around school. Since Leo is her new boyfriend, he starts to get shunned too. How could he be so involved and so in love with an obvious traitor?
The pressure keeps mounting until Leo asks Stargirl to do what he would normally consider unthinkable: he asks her to stop being her quirky self and instead become normal; to conform to the style of everyone else. He blames it on the other students, saying they’re the problem with the world, not her.
Because Stargirl loves Leo so much, she agrees to do it.
She goes by a new name, her original name – Susan Julia Caraway. She dresses in short, low-cut, brand name clothes. She wears jewelry and makeup. She stops bringing her pet rat to school, and she stops playing her ukulele and singing happy birthday to kids at school. Leo is even more smitten with her than before, but Stargirl is the unhappiest she’s ever been in her entire life. Before too long, she tells Leo she can’t behave like a normal person anymore. She likes to be herself, even if the other students can’t handle it.
After making her decision, Leo decides to break up with Stargirl right before the school’s annual ball. He doesn’t even go to the ball, feeling too ashamed with himself and angry at Stargirl for having to be so different. But he finds out later that Stargirl goes to the ball, has a blast with the other students who suddenly seem to realize, once again, that being different isn’t so bad.
And then, just like that, Stargirl leaves, never to be heard from again.
Where do I even begin? This story is so hard to wrap up in a summary. I left out some of my favorite parts because they would take too long to explain. There are so many heartbreaking, gut wrenching details to this book, and you simply must read it. I’m seriously recommending it to everyone. It’s the perfect coming-of-age and learning to be comfortable in your own school story.
There is an insane amount of lessons in this story, too. I feel like it’s one of those books that you have to reread every so often just so you can gain a new insight, learn a new lesson. However, the obvious and main lesson this book wants to teach us is to remember to be individual, different, and unique; to not conform just because society says to.
I actually struggled with this a lot in my youth, which is why Star Girl resonates so deeply with me. I was homeschooled up until my junior year of high school, so I didn’t have an experience completely similar to Stargirl’s. However, each month, we would have a meet up with other homeschool families and participate in fun activities and clubs.
I’m an incredibly quirky person. I’m introverted, a writer, a reader, a lover of puns, a cat fanatic…the list could go on. I wasn’t like the other kids my age in my homeschool group. They grew up deep in the country and knew how to hunt, fish, use pocketknives, etc. They were fun and nice, but they were tough, and I was very different. I had been raised with different ideals from a lot of them, which also set me apart.
I don’t make friends easily just because I’m quieter, and back then, making friends was ten times harder than it is for me now. I didn’t think I would ever find friends, but once I did, I was desperate to keep them. Because of my blind desperation, I allowed myself to fall into the trap of conformity. I said things that I wouldn’t have ever said if I had been thinking about it straight. I dressed a little differently. I laughed only at certain jokes, and most of them weren’t wholesome ones that thirteen-year-olds should be making either. I even deemed some people there as “enemies” just because my friends deemed them as such.
It took me a really long time, but I ended up reaching the same conclusion as Stargirl – I like who I am, and I’d prefer to stay that way. Yes, I ended up losing those particular friends because I decided I wanted to be my own person again, and I didn’t want to keep conforming to their idea of “cool”. But in the end, it worked out because shortly thereafter I gained new friends that love me for who I am, quirks and all. I’m still close with those friends today, even after having moved across the country from them.
Be comfortable and happy in your own skin. While it can be a lonely road at times, I can promise you that it is 100% worth it in the end.