Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli is a renowned and critically acclaimed young adult novel which was published in August 2000. Like many of Spinelli’s other young adult novels, Stargirl deals with issues of conformity versus individuality, leaving the novel to resonate with various demographics from young adults to adult educators alike.
Leo Borlock is an eleventh grader who would like nothing more than to conform within his stereotypical high school environment. However, Leo and the rest of Mica high school become torn away from their conventional existence by the arrival of Stargirl Caraway, a defiant and eccentric student who has been homeschooled her entire life and is now attending high school for the first time. In the first half of the school year, Leo observes Stargirl’s abnormal actions and how his classmates react to her strange lifestyle. At first, the students are suspicious of Stargirl’s eccentric nature and are hesitant to socialize with her. As the story progresses, some of the students are influenced by Stargirl’s individuality and become more open-minded themselves.
However, by February of the school year, the students have begun to convey their distrust of Stargirl and her actions. Stargirl refuses to adhere to their mediocre lifestyles, causing Mica High to condemn her as a threat to their way of living. Leo develops a close relationship with Stargirl later on in the novel, in which he is captivated by her carefree disposition. Despite this, he still attempts to change her identity into a more complacent persona. When he realizes that she cannot abandon her individuality, Leo decides to dismiss Stargirl, a decision he comes to regret later in his life.
Jerry Spinelli’s writing is creative and innovative, staying consistent throughout the entire novel. Stargirl explores the way that communities and the status quo react to individuals who refuse to conform with society’s standards. It attains a unique perspective on how people struggle to decide if they would advocate for being non-conformist, or if they would prefer the safety of a larger group. It causes the reader to be pressured in choosing a passive and compromising position because even if they don’t want to conform, the rest of society is expecting that they give in to adequacy and indifference. The themes presented in Stargirl can cause conflict in the minds of those who read the novel and will cause readers to rethink their own personal morals about popularity and being an individual. What if being free-spirited and unconstrained means being shunned where no one wants to appreciate being an independent and distinctive person within the community? If changing one’s self has no significant impact on others, then why is the idea of deviating from social normality still so significant?
I would rate this book as 5/5, as it is important for people to read Stargirl in order to experience other perspectives and understand social behavior on a different level. I would recommend this book to anyone who is unsure about distinguishing personal identities or to have a better understanding of how societal conventions and the nature of interacting with people who are different from what the rest of the world wishes them to be.