Very rarely in life do we understand blessings when they arrive. Blessings are misunderstood or scary until we have had time to process them. This is the main theme in Jerry Spinelli’s latest offering, Stargirl. When Stargirl Caraway enters Leo Borlock’s life, her impact is both disturbing and permanent. Stargirl is a ukulele-strumming, plain-faced, costume-donning character that enters a cookie-cutter student body at an Arizona high school. Her antics range from annoying to amusing, and the prevailing attitude is clearly defined by her peers as her fame rises and falls, time and again.
Middle school students will enjoy comparing and contrasting the characters, but high school students can delve much deeper into theme and application. This is not just another ‘underdog makes good’ story; in fact, a probing question is whether Stargirl’s actions are positive at all. She is an anti-teenager, if ever there was one: She’s not cool, she shuns the attentions and opinions of others, and offers her heart in completely constructive ways. Very few bother to discover what motivates this strange creature, and Stargirl’s effect lingers long after she vanishes. Stargirl is a the type of book that is ripe for multi-level discussion.