Travis_J_Smith’s #CBR5 Review #155: Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli


I move that Manic Pixie Dream Girls be redubbed Stargirls. The titular character of Spinelli’s novel Stargirl (formerly known as Susan) sings people “happy birthday” at lunch with her ukulele, cheers for the opposing team as well as her own, creates photo albums for children she doesn’t personally know to give to them when they grow up, arrives at the school dance on a bike covered in sunflowers, etc. She belongs in the State Home for Manic Pixie Dream Girls.

But I knew it was only a matter of time before she found the boy brain damaged enough to fall in love with her brand of mentally ill. Heck, I was succumbing to her charms a little myself; MPDGs are like drugs, in that they’re alright in small doses, yet once their love is your drug, to quote Ke$ha, and you’re high on them 24/7, it gets to be too much. I could put up with Stargirl when she was just the quirky side-character. Then she became Leo’s love interest, successfully torpedoing that.

The rest of the book then functions as an in-depth look at the dark side of the MPDG. I don’t know whether or not that was intentional on Spinelli’s part, but it’s what I took away from Stargirl. Her efforts to be “normal” late in the book were Stepford Wife level creepy.

I guess I should be thankful that, in the end (SPOILER ALERT!)… Leo breaks thing off with Stargirl. Except he also unleashed her on the unsuspecting masses, as she skips town soon after having one final fling as the town MPDG. I’m sort of afraid to read the sequel and see what horrors happened once she moved her MPDG show elsewhere… (END SPOILER ALERT!).

That being said, the only logical conclusion to her story is someone having her committed, and so I’ll still read the sequel in the hopes that it happens. It most likely won’t, because, to quote Ben Folds, hope is a bastard, a liar, a cheat, and a tease. Kick its backside. It ain’t got no place in stories like these.

2 thoughts on “Travis_J_Smith’s #CBR5 Review #155: Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

  1. I had a very different experience with Stargirl. When I was in high school, I was always struggling between “being myself” and “fitting in” and for years, “fitting in” won out. It took me years and years to experience life in my own skin, no apologies, no fear of bullying, and so I admired the panache (or crazy) with which Stargirl just spun out her existence. It always made me sad that Leo makes the decision that he does, because I read it as a place of embarrassment, instead of rationality. But again, I had baggage coming into the book, and there was a certain sort of catharsis in reading it. Great review–I would never have thought of Stargirl as a MPDG myself.

  2. Teaching kids that it’s best if they just be themselves is important, but in Stargirl’s case I felt something could be said for her introducing at least a little normal into her life because Spinelli made her a little TOO out there for the sake of making a point. That being said, another part of me did wish Leo and Stargirl got back together in the end because, like you, I didn’t approve of what I recognize was the real basis for his decision: that he would rather have everyone else’s approval than the love of the one person who truly cares for him.

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