Stargirl: Introducing Myself to Romance, Part II

stargirl A few weeks ago, I blogged about how I discovered romance in the exquisite pages of Gail Carson Levine’s classic children’s novel, Ella Enchanted. A few years later came a different book that showed me another side of life and love.

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli tells the story of a new girl in a small Arizona high school, a girl who confounds everyone by being just who she wants to be and doing just what she wants to do, and the boy who falls in love with her in the face of scorn from his classmates. Leo, the narrator, is a typical teenage boy who, like everyone else, is at first puzzled and curious when Stargirl shows up, singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to strangers on her ukulele, wearing strange outfits, congratulating random people for their large and small achievements, and just being nice to everyone. The students, as high schoolers often are, are fickle. While Stargirl and Leo fall for each other, the student body swings from adoration to open hostility, and Leo is faced with the choice: her or them.

Stargirl is the definition of bittersweet. It so perfectly captures the struggle to love someone for who they are, and love them completely. When she tries to conform for Leo’s sake, it’s heartbreaking; and yet he is not a villain for his reluctance. Leo is every one of us, afraid to risk scorn for loving someone different. And what better microcosm of this is there than a small high school?

Stargirl has inspired non-conformists around the country, with Stargirl Societies popping up in schools to promote her message of originality and kindness. She’s such a fascinating character, more so because readers spend no time in her head. We see her as everyone sees her, as an enigma with the only explanations being the ones that come from her. As much as Leo loves her, he never totally knows her.

Stargirl has stayed with me since I read it ten years ago. I’ve seen pictures of girls who have gotten tattoos of Stargirl’s iconic signature (as seen on the cover). She was a powerful influence over girls of my generation, who were eleven or twelve when this book was published, and on the verge of figuring out who we were. There’s a sequel to this book, Love, Stargirl, but I haven’t read it; I’m afraid of it ruining the magic of the original. Stargirl is filled with mystery, love, and the struggles of growing up and finding yourself. Combined with Ella Enchanted, these two perspectives on life and love and relationships have helped define my view of love.

-Jane Granville

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9 Responses to Stargirl: Introducing Myself to Romance, Part II

  1. i absolutely love ella enchanted!! i re-read the book a gazillion times (and my copy reflects that) and it never loses it’s wondefulness. :)

  2. (Full disclosure: I’m a total Spinelli fanatic. I think he’s hands down the BEST most interesting writer writing today for any age. So what follows is total fangirl squeeing.)

    What a fantastic book Stargirl is. My favorite thing about all Spinelli novels is that the point of view is always spot-on perfect. For example, the narrator of Stargirl is a “normal” kid, and we only see Stargirl through his eyes. I’m dying to write a romance novel like this….one day. But can you imagine a romance novel where you don’t get into the head of the heroine? It’s just not done in modern romance. But (I think) it’s a big part of what makes this book so brilliant. If someone wrote a romance from this point of view, it would be considered “literary.” Such a shame….

  3. Michelle S says:

    I haven’t raed Stargirl, but I have read Ella Enchanted. And just reread yesterday. I have to agree – the romance in the story is beautiful and touching…

    Too bad they absolutely destroyed the story in the movie…

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  5. Evelyn Everybody says:

    I just realised as I started writing that it’s been about 10 months since this was posted and 9 since anyone has commented on it, but I saw this and felt compelled to comment.

    Stargirl is easily my favourite book. I originally read it in 7th grade because it seemed to be that reading level, but wasn’t really that excited about it once I finished it. However, I picked it up again when I was in high school (maybe freshman or sophomore) and realised how amazing it is. I’m 17 now (a senior in high school) and I’m still completely head over heels for this book (I’ve read it at least 8 times and counting). I really agree with your take on the book’s themes about love, but they weren’t what got me. I really admire Stargirl’s character- her selflessness and little acts of kindness.

    Anyway, I just wanted to share what this book really meant to me and tell you how glad I am to see that other people have taken to it the way I have.

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