Tag: Jerry Spinelli

Where in the World is Stargirl’s Character Development?

If you take away the clothes and the ukelele and the pet rat, just who is Stargirl Caraway? Well as I moved through the book I couldn’t help but get this sort of weird vibe from the book and from Stargirl herself. She seemed like a character of impossibilities. She’s amazing and effervescent and so unafraid to be herself. What is it exactly that someone as wild and free as Stargirl sees in Leo? That’s when the four words popped into my mind. Manic. Pixie. Dream. Girl.

Originally, film critic Nathan Rabin coined the term in 2007 and defined it as someone, usually female, who “exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures.” This sounds par for the course within Stargirl. However, since the term has been denounced by many people, including Rabin himself, I’ll hold back on calling Stargirl a Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Instead, I’m going to ask a series of questions because I feel like something big was missing from the book. Namely, much of her character development.

Like I mentioned before, what exactly does Stargirl see in Leo? Looks aside, we the reader, don’t get much insight into Stargirl’s thoughts. While one can argue that the book is told in Leo’s point of view, there are actually a number of chapters in which Leo isn’t actually present in the narrative. That said, there truly could have been a number of chapters in which the readers are given the chance to learn more about Stargirl and see her thoughts. The closest we get to that is when Leo goes to visit her at her home and sees her Happy/Unhappy Wagon and that just barely scratches the surface of her character.

On the opposite side of the coin, why exactly does Leo like Stargirl? Once again, yes she’s cute but she’s also very eccentric. This is something he’s known from the very beginning. This is something that made him feel uneasy even before The Shunning occurred. Stargirl, in all her costumes and wild mannerisms, is the most outgoing of the duo and when people begin calling him “Starboy” he begins to feel uneasy. Yes, this is a book involving high school students but why does this bother him so much? What is mind blowing to me is that Leo, who was initially attracted to her because of how different she was compared to the girls at MAHS wants her to change to become more like the girls at MAHS. If that’s the case, I ask once again, why does Leo like Stargirl?

Moving away from the LeoStargirl/StargirlLeo relationship, what else do we really know about her? What are some of her short term goals? How does she want to spend her time at MAHS? She’d been home schooled for all these years so what’s her reaction to becoming part of a student body? Can we as readers get more insight into her friendship with Dori? What are her long term goals? How does she know Archie? Even when it’s established that Archie and Stargirl knew each other, Leo doesn’t even bother to ask how and why they know each other. As a result, we don’t know much about Stargirl.

All of these questions are ones that would have been answered if Stargirl were better developed. It feels like she’s the literary equivalent of “Unwritten” by Natasha Beddingfield which, don’t get me wrong, it’s a great song but like an album, a person is made up of more than one song. I get it, Stargirl is a generally weird/happy person. But what else? We know about Leo, we know about his friends and his work as a director on Hot Seat. The point is, we got through this whole book and we don’t know who Stargirl is and that, to me, is more than a little disappointing.

I’d really love to know what you all think about Stargirl, both the book and the character so feel free to share your comments down below!

Thanks and happy reading!

-♥Jq

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Stargirl: You’re Your Best You

I want to first start this review by thanking my mother. As mentioned, all of the books featured in the summer reading series were books that I had as required reading when I was in grade school. As such I had read this book only once and shoved it in the back of my bookcase, thinking I’d never read it again. That said, imagine my surprise when I cracked open this book to find a number of sticky notes with my mother’s handwriting, helping me figure out what details, themes, and characters are important. That said, thanks, mom!

A huge part of growing up is about figuring out where you stand in life. Your values, the things you love, who you want to be. It’s difficult but do-able as evidenced by those like myself who have survived middle school, high school, and even those tricky college-aged years. What makes things even more difficult is that everyone around you is simultaneously trying to figure out the same things while trying to adhere to what they understand to be normal.

Long story short: Growing up and being yourself is hard and Jerry Spinelli’s Stargirl gives us a fantastic insight into that. While it is a story of a girl, it is told in the point of view of a young man named Leo Borlock. His world is shaken up when the eponymous and previously homeschooled Stargirl arrives at Mica Area High School. While there, she turns heads and raises eyebrows for wearing the clothes she wants, saying hello to people and singing happy birthday. Admittedly it is a little strange that she does insist on bringing her pet rat to school and follows strangers around (this is less than charming, to say the least, and absolutely creepy to say the most).

Despite all her eccentricities, Leo enjoys them… to a point. Throughout the novel, it is very clear that Stargirl is completely comfortable with herself with the exception of Leo. He is her Achilles heel. Somehow, and in some way, Stargirl has fallen in love with Leo and for a while, she sacrifices her happiness for his. When she realizes it doesn’t work, when she realizes that being the MAHS definition of normal doesn’t win the admiration of her cohorts, she chooses to love herself even more. This is a difficult task, even for people who are years her senior.

I can only imagine what this book would have been like if it featured characters of color, and/or characters who are disabled, and/or characters who are part of the LGBT+ community. Members of these communities are still seen to this day as an anomaly in literature, film, and TV. They’re often met with complaints of “why does X need to be Y”. Just imagine, if you would be so kind, an East-Asian or Southeast Asian Stargirl who is beautiful and full of laughter and love for herself. Imagine a dark-skinned Black Stargirl who has natural hair and changes her hairstyle from week to week and wears bright colors. And honestly don’t even get me started about a Stargirl who is a lesbian or bi or trans.

Stargirl is really a fantastic book. It teaches readers, young and old that the best way to be happy is to be yourself. Cheesy, but true. It would just be nice if the wonderfully, happily weird featured more than quirky, cis, straight white girls. You all know the rules here: Great Book – Literally any hit of diversity = 5.

What I’m interested in hearing about is what ways having a different Stargirl would have helped you while growing up. I can only really talk about how amazing a Black Stargirl can be but I really want to know about others so let me know in the comments!

Thanks for reading and until next time,

-♥Jq