Thursday, 17 May 2012

Contempo-May Review: Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

In One Line:  who is Stargirl?
Genre: High school heart ache with added magical mystery 
The Gist:
Leo’s life is pretty mundane. He lives in a mundane part of America, and goes to a mundane school where pretty much nothing happens. Reflecting on his teenagehood from fifteen years in the future, Leo remembers his first love, a wild and mysterious thing who went by the name ‘Stargirl’. 
The Cover:
This. This, is a cover. People stared at me on the tube whilst I was reading it, and I knew what they were thinking: “that book looks awesome”. The picture above doesn’t even do it justice, because it is SO SHINY in real life. And pink in an ironic way, because the book is written/narrated by a boy. Oh this cover. *strokes cover* I wish all covers were this brilliant and iconic. 
Why You’ll Love This Book
  • This is one of the classics of contemporary YA, and one that totally passed me by when I was younger, so I just had to read/review it for Contempo-May. It sets a standard of writing, and although it’s a tiny, slim book, the quality is exemplary. We’re sitting on the boundaries of literary here, and yet this is also a book which has a mass, commercial appeal. I’m in awe of any book that manages to do this. 
  • There’s something so real and unreal about this book. It depicts an Americana that I can just about imagine from my comfy seat in Edgware Starbucks. It’s the America that I’d love to actually exist, and yet I suspect that it’s an idealised America, one that has been sentimentalised and romanticised. 
  • Stargirl is amazing. She is who we should all want to be. Sure, she’s a little deluded and out of touch, and she doesn’t ‘get’ quite a lot about modern life, but reading her makes me wish we lived in a world where Stargirl’s crazy, heart-warming antics were acceptable. If all of us could do one Stargirl-type thing every day then this world would be a beautiful place to live. 

Why You May Not Love This Book:
  • I’ve come across a few people who saw me reading this book at work and commented that they “didn’t get it” when they read it years ago. On asking for a reason, they just shrugged and said they “just didn’t”. I think it is one of those books that can split people, a marmite book if you will. If you like transparent storytelling and all your loose ends tied up then you may not like this book. Being left with that eerie sense of wonder is part of Stargirl’s charm, but I guess some people just don’t like it that way. 
  • It’s a bit too innocent compared with current YA. Leo is a senior, and yet he takes AGES to kiss Stargirl, and there’s not even a hint of sexytimes. This is a very chaste novel, and whilst that does add to the surreal charm, it just seems a bit too unrealistic. Even if Leo and Stargirl never actually Do It, surely Leo is thinking about it? Surely???
  • It’s too short dammit! It’s a book that leaves me wanting more and asking even more questions than when I started it, and yet it works so perfectly as a standalone, I’m not even tempted to read the actual sequel, because I’m scared that it will ruin the magic. Sometimes in life we need a bit of mystery, like at the end of Lost in Translation, or the bit where Bastian has to say the Childlike Empress’ name at the end of The NeverEnding Story. 
  • Maybe because I’m reading this as a twenty-something, but I found something quite dark in Stargirl. Without spoiling anything, you could read something horribly sinister into the ending. Maybe that’s just me and my twisted, dark mind, but if you really think about how Stargirl would cope as a grownup in the real world, I think your mind might grow some dark conclusions too. 

The Hypersomnia Test:
Passed with shiny pink colours! Mostly because this book is so short, and the mystery of Stargirl is just so beautiful and riveting, I read this in one day. I even stayed up into the early hours to finish it. 
Final Verdict:
If you love YA, you have to read this book. It’s one of the absolute essentials you should read in order to understand the genre. A wonderful classic that possibly gets overlooked nowadays by the heady rush of ‘on-trend’ YA, I wish that publishers would find more beautiful books like this to highlight instead of focussing so much energy on all the lesser, but probably more commercial, books. Without this book there would be no John Green or Louis Sachar. Read this book and embrace your own inner Stargirl. 
Further Reading:
The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
Looking for Alaska by John Green
The Cardturner by Louis Sachar
To buy Stargirl click HERE!!!

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