Have you read Stargirl?

I wrote about it a couple of years ago, but the short version is that Stargirl has been homeschooled her whole life, then starts attending high school, doing all manner of crazy things (playing a ukulele during lunch to anyone who has a birthday, bringing a pet rat to school, wearing pioneer type clothing,etc). At first she’s wildly popular, but then her weirdness ostracizes people. Leo, who has been enchanted with her from the beginning, begins dating her and when the shunning reaches him, he convinces her to start being “normal.” When people still hate her, she eventually returns to her previous odd behavior and Leo breaks up with her.

Anyway, we read Stargirl (and the companion book, Love, Stargirl) for book club this month (for the record, I didn’t love them as much as I did a few years ago).

In the course of our discussion last night, I asked who felt like they were a Stargirl and who felt like they were more of a Leo. Two of us immediately identified with Leo, while two were strongly in the Stargirl camp. The remaining seven didn’t identify themselves as one way or another.

This book, and certainly others, appear to be making out people who are their own kind of unusual to be somehow better or more true to themselves than those who fit more easily into the norm.

Is there somehow a feeling that everyone would be a Stargirl if they had the bravery to face down the naysayers?

I have no desire to be a Stargirl. I don’t wish to be different or feel that I’m repressing my true self in order to fit in. I just happen to be a little bit quiet in large groups (less so in small ones). I don’t have a desire to wear outrageous clothing. I rarely want to be the center of attention.

I would have a hard time being in a relationship with someone who was so wildly flamboyant. I hate awkwardness.

The book makes Leo out to be the guy who is just conforming to the masses and that, if he were less the product of a strict high school social system, he too would be strumming a ukelele at lunchtime or hanging enormous banners proclaiming his love in the quad.

I just can’t agree that being “weird” somehow means you are more yourself. Isn’t normal considered normal because many, or maybe even most, people are naturally like that?

Can’t you be yourself and still be a very average human?

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  1. Very true! I know people who think that others who fall into the "normal" category, or do the things society says they are "supposed to do" are being dishonest (with themselves and/or others). But, I agree that most people are being themselves and are happy with it, even if that means they blend in "normally".

  2. You've got some good points – I always hated Stargirl because I am SO SICK of the "all homeschoolers are ex-hippies" thing (find me a middle grade or young adult book with a "normal" homeschooled kid in it. I dare you).

    If your personal lifestyle/preferences just happen to mesh with the rules of society, what's the big deal?

  3. I also think the book assumes that

    nonconformist = flamboyant

    I think I'm a nonconformist in terms of my opinions and choices re how to use my time. But you'd never know it to look at me or see me interact in public, you know?

  4. Hmmm, I haven't read these but I was homeschooled and I'm a little sick of people acting like homeshoolers are crazy. That aside, I know tons of people who only do what they do because they're "supposed" to. So I think not being true to yourself is a common problem. However if you aren't a crazy attention seeking freak than you're not a crazy attentions seeking freak. Did that even make sense? Sigh.

  5. I've never read Stargirl, even though it has been reccommended to me many times. I just have never felt like it.

    My little sister used to do things that were opposite of what everyone else did just b/c she didn't want to fit in. I, in my infinite 18-year-old wisdom, told her that doing something just b/c others aren't is just like doing something b/c others are. I said, do whatever you truly want to do, whether that makes you stand out or fit in.

    That's what I live by, and I tend to stick out a bit, but not much.

    North Meets South

  6. Growing up I always felt like I didn't belong, I loved Stargirl. I felt like my quirkiness was okay.

    As I get older, the quirkiness/nerdiness remains, but now I celebrate it. I am not average, but I don't want to be average. I fit in a crowd of other, not average people. So…I suppose that means I'm both Leo and Stargirl? I just finally found the group where I belong, with the other quirky nerds. 🙂


  7. I tend to agree with Julie. You don't have to be a sheep to mostly fit in with the crowd. I have several pretty odd passions/ world views/ etc that if people really know me, they will see. But I am not going to rock the boat just so that I can show everyone how different I am.

    On the other hand, I think that all of us have some things about ourselves that we really do try to hide because we don't want others to know it about us. And I think that that is really what the book is trying to get at. The thing that we hide isn't important (I'm not talking about hiding your entire personality here, just something you're embarassed about). What is important are the feelings of shame that come with the hiding. I think the book could have done a better job getting this message across without seeming to judge those that aren't "allowing" themselves to be abnormal.

  8. I'm definitely neither a Leo or a Stargirl. They're good points you bring up, but I always loved the books because I thought the writing was beautiful. But do you think everyone Spinelli writes of is either a Stargirl or a Leo? Are Stargirl's parents Stargirls? I know her dad becomes a milkman, but before that he's an engineer, right? What about the teacher (can't remember his name, but the one who talked to Senor Saguoro, excuse my spelling), or the woman with agoraphobia. I don't think Spinelli says these are the types of people who would be out strumming ukeleles per se, but he also doesn't seem to be saying they're either Stargirls or Leos. Maybe I'm wrong. But good, thought-provoking question, Janssen.

  9. While I understand (and agree) that you can be "normal" and still yourself, I wouldn't say that Stargirl was being "flamboyant" either.

    She was being normal, based on her own definition. I think that was sort of the book's message. Everyone is "normal" because that looks different to different people.

    I feel freakish, unhappy, and false when I try and be "normal" based on someone else's definition. (I'm ADD and spectrumy, and that is my normal.) I imagine I feel the same way you would if you forced yourself to stand flamboyantly.

    Everyone is quirky and weird in some way. That is normal.

  10. I'm rather depressingly normal. I think I was a bit more quirky when I was younger (and happy to let that flag fly) but I'm just a mellow adult. Your last line totally resonated with me. I am myself and I am very average.

  11. I knew a kid in high school that was pretty odd, and I remember talking about him once to another friend. The other friend pointed out that Weird Kid was not so much a naturally weird as a "Look At Me! I'm SO WEIRD!" kid. It's those sorts of things that are more annoying to me.

  12. So true. Taylor & I always point out how these days there are so many "hipsters", and being hipster seems to mean that you are being different and unique…except that everyone else is also doing it kind of in the same way. It's okay to be normal- I kind of feel boringly normal most of the time. I admit that there has always been something inside of mean that wants to stand out and be different, but then I decide it feels like too much work, which must mean that isn't ME.

  13. I didn't think Stargirl was weird; I thought she was wonderfully refreshing. I think I'm more like Leo and wish that I was more like Stargirl.

    High school for me was so painfully about fitting in (and I think it still is) so I love that Spinelli is helping youth to see that being yourself isn't weird; it's refreshing!

    A lot more good comes about when we use the gifts God has given us, instead of being worried about appearances.

  14. As usual, I agree with you 100%. Stargirl kind of made me nervous and uncomfortable. I think some people believe the only way to be unique is to be somewhat outrageous. I hope that I can teach my children that they are unique no matter how normal they are.

  15. What a nice post, a subject I've thought about many times over the years. The older I get the more quiet I've become (those genes of grandpa's I believe) Some of us (many of us) are just normal and it's nice to know that's okay.

  16. Such an interesting discussion. Makes me want to read the books so I can ponder it some more. I think I agree with you completely though. Sometimes being true to yourself is being like the majority of people.

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