Monday, April 7, 2014

Stargirl

More Us than We Are


The book is a bright blue, with no words on the front cover. The title is a picture, more specifically a drawing, of a star and a girl. The binding reads “Stargirl” and “Spinelli” in quiet sibilance. It follows a boy, Leo, who lives in Mica, Arizona, and a girl, Stargirl who, after being homeschooled by her parents until her junior year joins Mica High School. In her long flowing white dresses, with a ukulele and a pet rat she shakes things up quite a bit.

Instead of plot-summarizing I wanted to tell you about a moment in the book that came up in conversation with my sister today.

Devora and I were sitting on the steps of the building that houses the students in the art program at her school. And all political correctness and stereotypes aside, they’re a little different. Maybe it’s an artist thing, or maybe it’s personal to the particular students she and I are friendly with, but for whatever reason they beat to a different maraca. There’s something refreshing about kids just “doing them.” But, there’s also something terrifying about it. Sometimes, we may find ourselves uncomfortable with kids or adults who defy these “cultural rules” or “suggested tips for living.” Kids who don’t care if it’s cool to be hipster, because tight pants are uncomfortable and they don’t want to buy new glasses. Watching other people embrace themselves reminds us that we may not be. That our socio-political-communal-religious-social-media-cultural environments seep deep into ourselves, sometimes oozing over the best parts of us, or the truest parts of us.

I remembered a moment in Stargirl where Leo and his friend, Kevin are trying to figure out the new girl with community mentor and retired paleontologist, Archie (I know how it sounds, but somehow it works). The boys, as well as all the students at Mica High, are in arms over Stargirl’s irregularity and are looking for guidance. White smoke puffing out of his pipe he chuckles to himself and tells the boys he was wondering when they would start asking questions.

“She is different, isn’t she?” 
Kevin exclaimed, “like another species!” 
Archie cocked his head, as if he had just caught the sound of a rare bird… He stared at Kevin. “On the contrary, she is one of us. Most decidedly. She is more us than we are us. She is, I think, who we really are. Or were.” 

Stargirl is a story of acceptance, both of others and of ourselves. Set in high school, one of the most turbulent moments of self-discovery it provides context for kids, young adults, and even adults to be honest about themselves. What I love is that it questions if readers even know whether or not they’re being honest about whom they are.

-RN

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