I’ve recently started a book club. Mutual reading is a good idea. I read a lot on my own, but it’s nice to have someone readily available to gush with as soon as you complete a story. I feel similarly about writing. That pesky writing group has so far evaded me.
The first novel we read is something I should have read in middle school, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli. I have never read any of Spinelli’s work: not in middle school or high sch0ol, not at all until now, but I suppose it’s better late than never. Because it was meant for a younger audience, Stargirl is a quick read, but it is by no means an easy one. It is a story about individuality and conformity told through the eyes of our narrator Leo Borlock.
Leo is an overall “good guy,” well liked by his peers. He gets along. This changes when Stargirl arrives, who is unlike anyone who has ever set foot in Mica Area High School. She wears long skirts and keeps a sunflower satchel. She brings her pet rat to school. She plays the ukele and serenades students on their birthdays. She is unflaggingly upbeat, positive, and genuine. Having been home schooled, Stargirl is separate from the petty concerns of most average high school students. She does not want to be popular. She just wants to help people. She uses her uncanny and keen sense of observation to attempt to surprise and delight those around her. An instinct that usually confuses and even angers the wary people around her.
Stargirl is the story of a girl who has so much to give a cruel and unappreciative world. It’s not enough to say this is a book about a girl who “marches to the beat of her own drum,” even if it’s true. Stargirl marches to the beat of her own damned 100 piece orchestra. The novel paints a unique characters and sells it. Not once did I fail to believe Stargirl’s selfless actions. If anyone else scanned the newspaper for news of anniversaries or hospitalizations to send cards and well wishes, I would have a hard time buying it. But not with Stargirl. Spinelli writes her with such honesty and good will that it’s impossible to believe she is anything else.
That’s why it’s so heartbreaking when the school fails to appreciate her spirit. Stargirl manages to rally everyone, only to have them turn against her for her consistency of spirit, for just being who she is. It’s even harder to watch Leo struggle with his love of who she is versus his near-unconscious desire to blend and conform, an impulse hammered in after years in the public school system.
This book should be required reading for every, single kid. The message I got out of it is there is no use being nasty or petty. It gets you nowhere. Instead, you should be yourself, whoever that is, and try to do good unto others, as they say.
I really liked the novel and I’m glad I finally got around to reading it. I hear there is a sequel, but I don’t think I am going to seek it out. I know the end of a good thing when I see it.
Until next time.