by Jerry Spinelli
The first day of eleventh grade, Leo looks up from his lunch tray and sees a girl who is completely different from everyone else. She dresses oddly, wears no makeup, does weird things like play Happy Birthday on the ukelele to complete strangers, and calls herself Stargirl. Some people almost think she might be from another planet, especially when she does things like cheering for both teams at a basketball game, and showing up at a funeral for someone she never met. Stargirls antics make some people uncomfortable, and others are downright hostile. But Leo cant get her out of his mind.
At first Leo is shy and nervous, but soon he and Stargirl are experiencing the euphoria of first love. I just have to quote the book to give you an idea of how deliciously Leo expresses himself...
I was floating. I floated up the white light that washed my sheets and slept on the moon. In school I was a yellow balloon, smiling and lazy, floating above the classrooms. I felt a tug on my string. Far below, Kevin was calling, Youre in love, dude! I merely smiled and rolled over and drifted dreamily out a window.
...But, unfortunately, the floaty part does not last forever. In time, Leo realizes that the girl he loves is more than unpopular; she is actually shunned. And the shunning is starting to be aimed at Leo, because he is with her. Leo cant handle the painful choice between being loved by Stargirl and being loved by everyone else. As you read his story, you feel the pain of his dilemma. You cringe as he persuades Stargirl to change for him, to conform to the way everyone else acts. You feel dread as you realize that nothing good will come of this. And you mourn with Leo as he loses something precious and irreplaceable.
Welcome to Stargirl from the award-winning author of Maniac Magee. All the reviews and endorsements of this book seem to agree that it is some kind of allegorical tale about noncomformity. I disagree. It is a very moving, lyrical, personal story about first love, the nature of love in general, and the sacrifices and risks required by a special kind of love. In modest, simple words full of breathtaking imagery, Jerry Spinelli portrays this bittersweet tragedy against the backdrop of the Arizona desert and take it from someone who has lived there, the background is gorgeously portrayed too!
It is like a candid confession from a boy who is not much wiser than any of us would be at that age. So Im warning you. Do not go into this book thinking that you can guard yourself against the inevitable stab in the heart. As Leo opens his story to you, you will find yourself opening your heart to it in return. After that, you will be caught loving, losing, hoping, and without a doubt, smiling through your tears.
Recommended Age: 14+
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