Thursday, May 19, 2016

Series Review: Stargirl and Love, Stargirl

     Today I will be reviewing a series. Do two books count as a series? Well, I guess they do in this blog. Today I will be reviewing the "series" Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli. Let's start with the original. Stargirl is told from the point of view of a High School student named Leo. A new girl arrives at his school in a (fictional) small town in Arizona. She is weird. Like, SO WEIRD. Her name is weird: Stargirl. Her clothes are weird: her mom works as a costume designer, so she makes all of them. Her pet is weird: a rat named Cinnamon (and she brings him to school with her). She plays a weird Ukulele and sings weird songs and used to be home-schooled, which is WEIRD.
     Stargirl is also nice, and pretty, and sweet, and smart, and one of the most genuine people Leo has ever met. Everyone in school is fascinated by her, until the moment when they are not. Leo has to decide if his feelings for Stargirl are strong enough to make up for the fact that everyone in the entire school hates her, and by extension, hates him too. And Stargirl must decide if it's more important for her to fit in, for Leo's sake, or to be her weird, genuine self.
     Of course, this is all stuff we have read a million times before. Teenagers go through this struggle constantly. We have all gone through this in our own lives at some point, I'm sure. The big difference here is the way Jerry Spinelli writes the story. The life he breathes into the characters he creates. Everyone here is fleshed out, even the rat. Spinelli is, of course a master at this, as we know from his award winning books like Wringer and Maniac Magee. The one and only complaint I have with this book is that even though the characters are teenagers in their last years of High School, they are written younger - they sound and act like kids in middle school. This may be due to the fact that most of Spinelli's books are middle-grade readers.
    Still, this is a beautiful little book, and definitely worth reading.

Final Rating: 4/5 bookmarks.


Spoilers ahead!

     It is an extremely rare occurrence when a sequel is better than the original. This is one such rarity.
     This time, the story is told by Stargirl herself as the self-described longest letter ever to Leo, who is now away at college, somewhere far away from Arizona, and even farther away from Pennsylvania, where Stargirl and her family now live.
     As the book opens, Stargirl is recovering from the loss of her love, and trying to adjust to her new life, back in home-schooling, and for the first time ever, unsure about her life or who she is.  As she begins to meet the colorful cast of characters that populate her new town, and tell Leo all about them,she begins to heal, and realizes some important  fact about herself, and about life in general.
     It truly is the characters that make this book an absolute gem. There's Dootsie, the high-spirited six year old who becomes Stargirl's instant best friend. Alvina, the local tomboy who responds to boys by beating the absolute crap out of them. Betty Lou, Stargirl's agoraphobic neighbor who longs to be brave enough to leave her house again. Even my least liked character, Perry, the new boy in Stargirl's life is well thought out and layered, even if I can't understand at all why Stargirl, or the rest of the girls in town find him attractive. (I mean, I do - because teenage girls are by and large morons when it comes to "bad boy" types). But then again, I didn't really care for Leo as a love interest either, to be honest.
     What also makes this book great is that it's being told by Stargirl herself. Her unique perspective on the world and the people in it are refreshing and lovely. The ending made me cry.

Final Rating: 5/5 bookmarks. WOW!

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