Stargirl, Jerry Spinelli

High school is a cruel world. As I have said in my blog about Speak, it dictates how you would live your life, and when you choose your to live otherwise, you would face the extremes—either popularity or you become infamous. These are the things that would make you want to pass by high school without attracting too much attention to yourself. You’d want to pass high school breezily, just a commoner.

Mica High School is like any other high school, where conformity is rewarded and deviancy is. otherwise, punished. Then comes Stargirl Carraway. Other than calling attention to just her name and the way she dresses, she brings MHS a gift that no other student has knew of before: the gift of individuality.

We wanted to define her, to wrap her up as we did each other, but we could not seem to get past the “weird” and “strange” and “goofy.” Her ways knocked us off balance. A single word seemed to hover in the cloudless sky over school: HUH?

Leo Borlock is a conformist. Other than his and his bestfriend’s show, Hot Seat, he barely draws attention to himself and he is contented with that. Until he gets attracted to Stargirl more than anyone else.

Now, Stargirl is different. She dresses differently, she brings her ukulele to lunch, she sings Happy Birthday to the birthday celebrants, she brings her rat to school, she makes her table in every class a home, and above all, she doesn’t care what everyone thinks of her.

Mica High is a sad school with no events and with everyone contented to just passing by high school and probably moving on to a new world. As ironic and as dark as the humor in it, I liked how Leo would have wanted to defend his choice of picking Parr as their next guest in their show.

It’s that sad–you can stand out by just doing nothing.

What could I say? That Parr was a worthy subject precisely because he did nothing, because he was so monumentally good at doing nothing? I had only a vague insight, not the words. I just shrugged.

Thus, Stargirl becomes a spectacle and as expected, everyone is threatened by her presence.

At the same time, we held back because she was different. Different. We had no one to compare her to, no one to measure her against. She was unknown territory. Unsafe. We were afraid to get too close.

Suddenly, Mica High had students individually, not just a collective of studentry.

It was wonderful to see, wonderful to be in the middle of mud frogs awakening all around. We were awash in tiny attentions. Small gestures, words, empathies thought to be extinct came to life. For years the strangers among us has passed sullenly in the hallways; now we looked, we nodded, we smiled. If someone got an A, others celebrated, too. If someone sprained an ankle, others felt the pain. We discovered the color of each other’s eyes.

Stargirl got into the heads of the people in Mica High, but most especially, he tickled that fancy of Leo, LOL, that was corny. But yeah, she messed up Leo’s head the first time he saw her, but that was pretty much like everyone else. So Leo had kept her interests at bay, until the day that everyone in the canteen had anticipated, when Hillari had specifically threatened Stargirl to not sing the Happy Birthday song to her. Stargirl would not back down. She was clever enough to hit two stones with one stone (WHY AM I BECOMING CORNY).

When she finished, the students burst from their silence with wild applause. Hillari Kimble stomped from the lunchroom. Kevin looked up at Stargirl and pointed at me and said what everyone must have been thinking: “Why him?”
Stargirl tilted her head, as if studying me. She grinned mischievously. She tugged on my earlobe and said, “He’s cute.” And walked off.

She kept her “tradition” of singing Happy Birthday to celebrants, and she has made a clever move to let Leo know that she liked him.

Aren’t they adorable? (Making unintelligible sounds, jujugurglrljuju)

For hours I lay under my sheet of moonlight. Her voice came through the night, from the light, from the stars.
Hi, Leo.

And then Leo that he likes her too! Oh man, a boy in love is just so cute. I AM RUNNING OUT OF SYNONYMS FOR CUTE AND ADORABLE!!

It was just so pure and innocent  and young and carefree and oh gods, Spinelli did a good job at making this little boy realize how the world is different when you have someone special by your side.

I was sixteen years old. In that time, how many thousands of smiles had been aimed at me? So why did his one feel like the first?

I did not know what I would do if I saw her. I knew only that I was nervous, afraid. I was more comfortable with her as history than as a person. Suddenly, intensely, I wanted to know everything about her. I wanted to see her baby gestures. I wanted to watch her eating breakfast, wrapping a gift, sleeping. Since September she had been a performer—unique and outrageous—on the high school stage. She was the opposite of cool; she held nothing back. From her decorated desk to her oratorical speech to her performance on the football field, she was there for all to see. And yet now I felt I had not been paying attention. I felt I had missed something, something important.

Man, seriously, if they had a face, I would have pinched their cheeks until they yelp in pain, and then pinch them some more. If I had magic powers, I would transform their love story into a key chain and have it with me, always. Just so I can have my share of rainbows every time. I’m not making sense, am I?

She was bendable light: she shone around every corner of my day.

“You’re really dumb,” she whispered in my ear.
“Yeah?”
“Yeah. Why would you think there’re eighteen pebbles in my wagon?” And then the last remaining space between our lips was gone and I was falling headlong into her eyes, right there on Palo Verde after dinner. And I can tell you, that was no saint kissing me.

But that was before the world has reared its ugly fangs to these young kids again. The world just have to be cruel to two kids ion love and have them succumb to pressure of belonging.

“But how do you keep track of the world? Sometimes I can hardly keep track of myself.”

It was sad seeing how Stargirl struggles to do what people expect her to do, but what is more heartbreaking is how she decided to join the bandwagon just for life would be easier for Leo, just so people would start talking to him again, and would stop ignoring him. As for Stargirl, she was fine with everything, but she wanted things to become better for Leo. So she did what most people do, had Leo teach him things about how people should react, even learning to dislike what most people don’t like. She even did her best in her oratorical speech not only to make her family proud of her, but also just so the her school, specifically her classmates, become proud of her. Just so, she could belong.

“People are not talking to me,” I said. I stared at her. I wanted it to sink in. “People I’ve known ever since we moved here. They don’t talk to me. They don’t see me.”
She reached out and lightly rubbed the back of my hand with her fingertip. Her eyes were sad. “I’m sorry people don’t see you. It’s no fun being seen, isn’t it?”

Then she become sad. She was not Stargirl anymore.

“Anchovies, ugh,” I said.
“What’s wrong with anchovies?” she said.
“How can you eat them? Nobody eats anchovies.”
I was sort of kidding, but her face was serious. “Nobody?”
“Nobody I know.”
She picked the anchovies from her slices and dumped them into her water glass.
I tried to stop her. “Hey—”
She pushed my hand away. She dropped the last anchovy into her glass. “I don’t want to be like nobody.”

I hated every moment of it. When all these kids had her judged and marked for life! Nothing ever makes them like her again! Just one mistake, and then they hated her. You could pretty much say for ever. Or maybe for the rest of her school life.

You see, people are easy to manipulate. Just as high school and the “real world” is the same, with judgmental people and narrow views, just do a little something that is different from their usual ways, and you have eyes on you always, waiting for you to do something that is wrong so they can finally put their accusing fingers and you and start a coup d’etat of some sort to bring you down.

I did not know it was even possible to have my heart broken into tinier pieces, but Stargirl was strong, strong-willed. She shows up in a dance, her usual happy self, and she even had people follow her dance! But Society personified in Hillari was there to literally slap her in the face that No, in Mica High School and probably in the “real world” also, being different is not welcome.

I may have cried too much in the ending. It was just too painful to see how the spirits of Stargirl was crushed and to have Leo miss that kind of love, for the sake of being accepted in the society.

It was just too sad–seeing how society has squeezed the fun and individuality out Stargirl and ruining a happy, innocent love story.

High school is supposed to bring out the best in every student, to get them to learn about themselves and celebrate individuality, not conformity.

High school is not supposed to breed robots.

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2 Responses to Stargirl, Jerry Spinelli

  1. Dawn says:

    I have this book! I bought it back in High School just because I loved the cover. Hahaha! 🙂

  2. tintearjerky says:

    I have heard of this book when I was in high school, but I can’t remember why I only bought it now, haha. It was a good read! 🙂 Brings back all the memories of high school love.

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