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Rosie Reads: Stargirl

‘She laughed when there was no joke. She danced when there was no music.

She had no friends, yet she was the friendliest person in school.

In her answers in class, she often spoke of sea horses and stars, but she did not know what a football was.

She said there was no television in her house.

She was elusive. She was today. She was tomorrow. She was the faintest scent of a cactus flower, the flitting shadow of an elf owl. We did not know what to make of her. In our minds we tried to pin her to a corkboard like a butterfly, but the pin merely went through and away she flew.’

-Jerry Spinelli, Stargirl

I’d seen ‘Stargirl’ recommended somewhere as a good middle (secondary) school read, and I’m wanting to ease my girls slightly out of their literature comfort zone, so we tried it as an in-the-car audiobook. It wasn’t quite what I expected – I hadn’t twigged the home education connection for one – and for us, it could have waited a year or two and perhaps had more resonance (my girls are young ten and elevens). However we all enjoyed it, and (to me at least) it felt like a suitable change in tone from Dork Diaries and the eleventy-tenth rereading of Harry Potter!

At heart it’s a story about the power – and the price – of being true to yourself in the face of peer pressure to conform. Home educators be warned, this book is not the one to dispel the myth of the weird, socially awkward homeschooler. Stargirl is kind, intelligent, perceptive, and totally chock full of life; and she has no clue and certainly no boundaries. The fact she was previously home schooled is a convenient plot point to get her to teenage years with her innocence of social norms intact – just a slightly jarring one if you’ve any actual experience of the world of home education, which is, well, still the same world as the one everyone else lives in, it turns out.

That said, while it’s exaggerated for dramatic effect, there is something recognisable and alluring in the picture of a spirit that hasn’t had its edges rubbed off by the world. As a mother, I can imagine that I would both be fiercely proud of the purity of Stargirl’s essence, and terrified for how the world would react to it. Which is pretty much how the book pans out, as it happens. I genuinely didn’t know how it would end, though, which I find is a rarity, and kept me as interested as the children.

But this is not intended to be a book for pushing-forty-year-olds to project their fears for their children onto! So, over to the real audience – in a Q and A with Rosie (aged just-turned-ten):

What is the book about?

A 15 (I think) year old girl, who calls herself Stargirl, who has been homeschooled for most of her life. Then she moves to Micah, and her parents enroll her in school, and she meets a 16-year-old boy called Leo. It is Leo who tells the story. Stargirl and Leo fall in love and go out together. At first Stargirl is nobody big, but then she is popular, and then it goes downhill and Stargirl is unpopular.

Did you enjoy it?

Definitely a yes!

What message do you think the author was trying to get across?

I never really thought about that! Probably that it’s good to be yourself.

Who would you recommend it to?

Probably in the older age zone, like 10-14. Also I would recommend it to some one sort of romantic (because of there being love in it).

Would you be Stargirl’s friend?

I think so, she sounds like a nice person, and very thoughtful and always doing stuff for other people.

Do you think the book gives a true picture of home educated children?

No. None of us, or our friends, are anything like that. It might be true about other home educated children in the world, but I’ve never met any home educated children like Stargirl at all. Or non-home educated children like Stargirl. She is unique.

Would you like to know anyone like Stargirl?

Oh yes, I definitely would. As a matter of fact I would love to know someone like Stargirl, but alas I don’t think I ever will, she is – and probably always will be – unique.