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Stargirl
2002
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School Library Journal Review
Gr 6-10-Jerry Spinelli's novel (Knopf, 2000), set in small-town Mica, Arizona, is a tender and poignant tale of adolescent relationships. The dynamics between the central characters, Stargirl and Leo, against the backdrop of petty, but entrenched cliques, gives a small window into the painful growth of teenagers and preteens. While the story is compelling, the writing styles don't translate easily to the audio format. Most of the text is narrative, as seen through the eyes of an older Leo, looking back nostalgically on his time spent with Stargirl. Juxtaposed among these memories are "real time" vignettes with dialogue between the assortment of characters. This interplay of time sequences with writing styles demands much of readers/listeners. There are scenes where text is preferable, such as the "Hot Seat" session where Stargirl is pantomiming behind Leo's back. Although narrator John Ritter does an admirable job, it lacks the vitality that Stargirl brings to the story, and the tenderness of Leo's memory. During the dialogues, the voices are not distinctive enough to bring the sense of urgency that is felt while reading the story; it is difficult to sense Hilary's loathing of Stargirl and all she stands for, or Leo's angst as he is torn between "fitting in" and allegiance to Stargirl. His best readings are the dialogues and descriptive passages that engage humor, especially the cheerleading episode as Stargirl spells out "Howdy." The narratives lack a musical vocal quality, and the intonations are predictable. Given that Ritter has strong ability with strictly vocal performances such as the voice for Clifford in Clifford the Big Red Dog (PBS) and other audio works, this could be a story that is better in its print format.-Tina Hudak, St. Bernard's School, Riverdale, MD (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Booklist Review
Gr. 6^-9. Sixteen-year-old Leo recounts Stargirl's sojourn at Mica High in an allegorical story that is engagingly written but overreaches. Everyone notices Stargirl when she comes to school. She wears a granny gown, strums a ukulele, and sings "Happy Birthday" to kids in the cafeteria. She also carries around a pet rat. Her classmates veer between ignoring her and being discreetly fascinated by her weirdness--dancing when there's no music, speaking in class of trolls and stars. Slowly, Stargirl attracts a following, especially after she gives a spellbinding speech in an oratorical contest and singlehandly stirs up school spirit. But her intense popularity is short-lived as, predictably, the teens turn on her. Leo is attracted by Stargirl and her penchant for good works. But just about the time they get together, the rest of the school is shunning her, and to his confusion and despair, Leo eventually turns his back on Stargirl, too. Spinelli firmly captures the high-school milieu, here heightened by the physical and spiritual barrenness of an Arizona location, a new town where people come to work for technology companies and the school team is called the Electrons. Dialogue, plot, and supporting cast are strong: the problem here is Stargirl herself. She may have been homeschooled, may not have seen much TV, but despite her name, she has lived on planet earth for 15 years, and her naivete is overplayed and annoying. When Leo tells her that not everyone likes having somebody with a ukulele sing "Happy Birthday" to them, she is shocked. That she has not noticed she is being shunned is unbelievable, and, at times, readers may feel more sympathy for the bourgeois teens than the earnest, kind, magical Stargirl. That's too bad, because Spinelli's point about the lure and trap of normalcy is a good one. But to make it real, Stargirl needed to have at least one foot on the ground. --Ilene Cooper
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