Tag: Summer Reading Series

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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The Secret Life of Bees: Motherhood and Coming of Age Without It

Grief. Hope. Life. Renewal. There isn’t a single word that can capture what Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees is about. The Secret Life of Bees revolves around teenager Lily Owens, and the void left by her mother’s death as well as her guilt for causing it. It’s already intriguing enough on its own but when you add in the fact that this takes place in the 1960s and involves Lily traveling with her mammy “stand-in-mother”, Rosaleen, I’m a little less intrigued.

As previously mentioned, Lily Owens and Rosaleen Daise are on the run after a confrontation with a trio of racists. After breaking Rosaleen out of a brief stint in jail, they find themselves at The Black Madonna Honey farm where they are given work and refuge by the August Boatwright, the beekeeper. While there, Lily grows closer August, her sisters May, and June while coming closer to finding out more about her mother.

Although the first few chapters were full of tension it was still a little rough to get through. It wasn’t until chapter four where we met the first of the Boatwright sisters did things actually get interesting for me. That’s not to say that important things weren’t happening in the previous chapters. In fact, the inciting incident and much of the backstory occurs within the first four chapters but it’s only after meeting the Boatwright sisters does the story become more lively. Which is what I believe Kidd was trying to accomplish. After all, Lily’s life changes completely after meeting August and her sisters so the writing and feel of the story should change as well.

As for the diversity within this book, yes there are a ton of black people, even more black people than white people. They’re certainly well developed, have their own hopes and storylines but this story isn’t about them. Yes, their struggles are included but they’re all are secondary to Lily. The trauma that April and May felt? Well, that sure is sad but Lily needs to find out about her mother? Old men harassing her Black love interest and his friends who are teenagers? Why doesn’t he just sell his friends out for his own safety?

I think that while this book is an important read for an insight into white privilege. Yes, Lily is a poor white woman who had to deal with an abusive and distant father for most of her life but she still has privilege. While she does use her privilege to get Rosaleen out of jail, she constantly thinks herself as better than, smarter than and more well-mannered than Rosaleen, a woman who may be 30 to 40 years older than her or any of the Boatwright sisters. On more than one occasion, Lily takes it upon herself to think and speak for Rosaleen, continuing to do so even after apologizing to Rosaleen about it.

Reading further I realize that much of the setting and inspiration stems from Sue Monk Kidd and her experiences growing up in the South as the Civil Rights Act was being passed, and as the old adage goes, writers write what they know. Fine, sure. However, I can only hope that non-Black writers, now understand what’s wrong with using segregation, specifically anti-black racism, as a backdrop for a coming-of-age story for a white girl.

As for the rating I give this book, part of me wants to wait until the end of the summer reading series to reveal where it ranks amongst the other books but I know that would be a little unfair. It really is a well-written book with wonderful imagery so for now, I’m going to give this book a 5 out of 10 stars. If you want to check to see if I’ve changed the rating be sure to check back at my new Ratings Master Post Page!

I really want to thank you all for reading and I look forward to seeing what everyone thinks/ thought about The Secret Life of Bees! Be sure to let me know in the comments below!

Until next time everyone,

Happy Summer Reading!

-Jq ♥

Introduction to Summer Reading

Hey, hi, hello, everyone! I’ve been gone for quite some time but I’m back and better than ever. I’m excited to be sharing a lot of new and exciting things to this blog. The first of which is… My Summer Reading Series! So, as a refresher, this blog focuses on young adult literature, exploring the diversity within it as well as pulling out lessons writers can use. The books featured in my Summer Reading Series will feature books that were part of my required summer reading in my youth. These books include various fiction and creative non-fiction titles such as:

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kid

Stargirl  by Jerry Spinelli

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

The Color of Water by James McBride

Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D Salinger

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

As for the other exciting things I have up my sleeve? More writing posts! Not only do I have a number of writing resources, I’m currently slogging through editing the first draft of my manuscript. That said, I’d like to think I have some information or tools or tips that will be able to help other people who are interested in or well-acquainted in the writing process. At the very least, we’ll be able to laugh, cry, and/or suffer through this process together. Be sure to stick around, and happy reading and writing!

-Jq