I can’t recall exactly where I came across STARGIRL for the first time, though my guess would be I saw something about it on Goodreads. I’m not usually a reader of anything bordering on Middle Grade; it has a tendency to amplify everything I dislike about Young Adult. (This doesn’t surprise me, of course. The methods for writing to different age groups are like that. Someone in their late twenties isn’t exactly their target audience.)
But the blurb called to me. A mysterious girl known only as Stargirl, wandering around the school and fascinating people, until someone tries to make her normal? Why wouldn’t I want to read this?
Stargirl speaks to me. She’s very reminiscent of Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter, except she doesn’t have the benefit of already being in a magical world, so when she enters the high school it’s not exactly to open arms. Leo, our main character, is caught between what he truly wants to do–and what peer pressure would have him do. In classic fashion, his love of the eccentric girl becomes his undoing as he tries to “save” her from the cruelness of their peers.
I wasn’t quite Stargirl when I was that age, but I know the feeling of being the odd one out and wanting to fit in. I could only wish to have Stargirl’s ability to shrug off so much of what the students throw at her. But what I like most about the book is that the characters are very real. Stargirl isn’t immune to the social pressure; she has feelings and they’re easily hurt. Leo isn’t a knight in shining armor; he’s a flawed high school boy who makes stupid mistakes. And the book doesn’t end the way we all might expect, and more than anything else I appreciate that. High school is full of messy mistakes and bad choices. Seeing that actually reflected in a book is a welcome change from the usual “happily ever afters” I see all too often. I want to be able to relate to a book; my high school story’s only happy ending was that I graduated and left. Now obviously, my schooling didn’t exactly end the same as this book either, but that’s neither here nor there.
There is a good balance in the characters between likable ones who we can root for, and the nasty ones who we love to hate. Much like real life, good people make stupid mistakes and stupid people are allowed to wreak havoc on the rest. I have a particular love for Leo–beside the fact that I love the name, he’s the most real of any of them. He’s closely followed by the titular character, however. The K-PAX reminiscent ending she garners just makes it all more intriguing.
Again, it’s good to keep in mind that this is Middle Grade bordering on YA. It’s a simple story, and it’s not very long, but it tells a nice complete tale and it’s well worth an afternoon of reading.
Rating: **** (Recommended)