Posted February 27, 2012 by Tara in Challenges /// 4 Comments

A simple, yet effective, cover. I know people who have this as a tattoo.

by Jerry Spinelli
Dell Laurel-Leaf
Library copy purchased from Perma-Bound
[#17 in my 75 Book Challenge]

I don’t do a lot of re-reading, for good reason. I often find I like books far less on the second go-around. ReadingStargirl a second time was an adventure for me. I first read the book in high school maybe twelve years ago — right around the time it came out. Right around the time I was the same age as Leo and Stargirl. Now I am almost the same age as Leo is in the epilogue, so I believe this was the perfect time in my life for a re-read. I loved it, then hated it, then loved it again. Like I said — an adventure.

The Plot

Mica Area High School is a normal high school in Arizona, full of kids who like to conform. Leo is an average high school sophomore. One day a new student by the name of Stargirl Caraway arrives and totally rocks the boat…and wins Leo’s heart. Leo must seek to understand Stargirl and himself, while dealing with the ever-watchful eyes of his fickle, judgmental fellow students.

Thoughts on the Re-Read

Now that I’m not in high school, I GET this book a bit more. The epilogue especially hit close to home for me, even though Leo is still processing everything that happened that year. I get kind of irritated with the manic pixie dream girl character that is Stargirl from time to time, but I understand that the story must have extreme characters to get the point across. During my initial read, I was focused on the romance and the “be yourself!” attitude of the plot. But the re-read really brought the complexity of that “be yourself” message to light.

Being yourself is a tricky thing. It’s not always easy, and there are areas of gray when it comes to knowing exactly what it mean to “be yourself.” Stargirl takes individuality to an extreme, not caring what anyone thinks. In reality, though, we do have to figure out where we all draw the line. I’m more of a Leo than a Stargirl, and most of us are. I think that’s the point Spinelli is trying to make: we aren’t Stargirls, and we shouldn’t try to be Stargirl. But we should think about how we behave as onlookers and bystanders in life.

Reading With The Book Club

My sixth-grade book club really enjoyed this book. They are at an age where they are just trying to develop identities and become their own interesting little people. They read the book a lot like I did in high school. There was a lot of open-eyed optimism about how they were all like Stargirl, marching to the beat of their own drummers. We did have some great conversations about random acts of kindness, acceptance of others’ differences, and bullying that I think did have an impact. Overall, we had a great time with this book and it was appropriate for the kids to be reading it. I hope they, like me, read it again and reflect on the deeper meanings.

Final Grade:   B  My original grade was an A, but I gave that based on reading the book twelve years ago. I had far fewer awesome YA novels in my arsenal of knowledge. It’s still an excellent book, but it has some flaws and it doesn’t quite match some of the books I’ve given A’s to this year. It does withstand the test of time, though, and it can be enjoyed by all ages. I recommend it to lovers of contemporary YA, both adults and students. My library owns this as a class set, and I think it will get much use over the years.


Tara is a PhD student studying education. Her dissertation will be on digital book communities as public pedagogy (ask her about it!), though she often takes a break from all of that to read books about oppressive governments and sassy teenagers. In a former life, she was a middle school teacher and middle school librarian. In her future life, she's a professor of YA lit. In her free time, she drinks a lot of coffee while planning her next grand adventure (there's always something).

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4 responses to “Stargirl

  1. It’s funny going back and reading books you read as a teenager – sometimes they impact you more, sometimes you think “this is terrible! How did i think this was so great?!” I’m glad your 6th graders enjoyed it and you were able to have a conversation with them; while I don’t work with kids of any age (unless you count college students as kids!) I think it would be really interesting to discuss the YA books I read with them to see what they’re perspectives are vs. what mine are.

  2. I know exactly what you mean about rereads! Some books I love rereading, it’s like hanging out with an old friend (I can pretty much continuously cycle through Harry Potter quite happily thank you), and other times it just breaks your heart and makes you sad you ever picked it up and dashed younger you’s positive memories. I’m glad you still liked this one, even if you didn’t like it quite as much. It does sound like it was a good time to reread!

  3. Excellent point you make here about balancing “being yourself” with respecting those around you. Balance, that is the key. Very glad to read this review today, helping me with one of my Lenten goals to be more insightful in my observations of others, therefore more compassionate and a better listener!

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