Stargirl tells the story of Susan 'Stargirl' Caraway, a home-schooled free spirit who has just joined the local high school in Mica, Arizona. She immediately draws attention with her eccentric ways. She brings a ukulele into school and sings Happy Birthday to random strangers, she dresses differently and she does little random acts of kindness. Gradually, her kindness and kookiness win over the school, including an introverted boy called Leo, until events occur that end up turning everyone against her.
Stargirl is a touching and thoughtful book, a celebration of individualism and a condemnation of the kind of society that would stifle it. I loved the concept and Jerry Spinelli's cast of characters leap right off the page at you. The sheep-like school students are all recognizable: the cheerleaders, the vacuous himbo, the introverts, the mean girls and Stargirl is plunked among them all like an Alka-Seltzer in a glass of water. The book itself drifts and meanders in a very pleasant way, much like Stargirl herself.
As much as I enjoyed the book, I’ll admit that there were points where I found myself idly wondering what it would be like to plant my hand over Stargirl’s face and give her a good shove backwards. Don't get me wrong: I loved her quirkiness, her innocence and her caring nature, but sometimes she came across as just ridiculously naive. Similarly, I liked Leo, but there were times when I wanted to kick him in the kneecaps for being so bothered about what other people thought.
At the bittersweet end of the story the town does seem to atone for their bullying behaviour and embrace their own individualism somewhat, but the moral does appear to be: if you don't conform, you will be bullied and ostracized until you and your family are forced to leave town.