Stargirl is a middle grade novel by Jerry Spinelli, published in 2000. Set in Mica Area High School in Mica, Arizona, the novel follows the story of the sophomore Susan "Stargirl" Caraway, narrated from the perspective of junior Leo Borlock. Stargirl quickly proves herself the most unusual student to ever come to Mica High; she utterly shuns conformity, wearing peculiar clothes —Native American buckskin, 1920s flapper outfits— and refusing makeup, carrying around her pet rat, dancing in the rain, decorating her desk with a tablecloth and flower, singing "Happy Birthday" to absolutely everyone, and cheering for both teams at games. The school has no idea what to make of her. Meanwhile, Leo finds himself falling for her.
Stargirl is, after a time, accepted by the school, and other students begin mimicking her. Many break free from the conformity that had held the school before. This, however, does not last; during the basketball season, Stargirl's insistence on cheering for the other team as well angers her classmates, and she is eventually shunned by the school. The novel then follows Leo's conflict between his relationship with Stargirl, and the peer pressure of his classmates.
A sequel, Love, Stargirl was released in 2007.
Disney is producing a live-action adaptation that is due to come out in 2020.
Not to be confused with the member of the Justice Society of America by the same name.
This novel provides examples of the following tropes:
- All of the Other Reindeer: When Stargirl becomes a cheerleader, she cheers for both the Mica basketball team and the opposing team, which turns more or less everyone against her. The Mica team eventually loses to Glendale, and Stargirl is blamed and shunned amongst the student body. Since Leo hangs out with her, he's on the receiving end of the treatment as well, at least until he breaks up with her.
- Alpha Bitch: Popular girl Hillari Kimble, sans the Girl Posse. Jennifer St. John may also qualify.
- Artistic License Animal Care: Stargirl only has one rat. It's very recommended that people have at least two rats because they're extremely social. She also carries around her rat in her backpack, which is dangerous.
- Barefoot Loon: Stargirl invokes this, when she's dancing barefoot with the cheerleaders.
- Blithe Spirit: Stargirl.
- Book-Ends: The book begins and finishes with Leo receiving a porcupine necktie for his birthday.
- Break the Cutie: Attempted. Stargirl is nothing but kind in both books, yet she still endures teasing from all her peers, to the point where she makes herself miserable trying to fit in.
- Cloud Cuckoo Lander: At the beginning, most of Stargirl's classmates look at her as this.
- Cool Loser: Okay, there's no denying that Stargirl is really, really strange. But she's also the nicest person you could ever hope to meet. She goes out of her way to make people happy, simply because Good Feels Good. Unfortunately, at Mica High, that's not enough.
- Cool Old Guy: Archie is just plain awesome. He's a retired paleontologist who loves teaching, and is constantly imparting wisdom or sharing neat trivia with the neighborhood kids, to the point that Leo describes Archie's house as the best school ever. He's also the only character who even comes close to "getting" Stargirl.
- Closer to Earth: People like Stargirl are apparently more like this, but not in the traditional sense of the trope.
- Completely Missing the Point: After a young boy comes home after a bike accident, Stargirl anonymously sends him a new bike. The mother is upset, because after her son's accident, she doesn't plan on allowing him to ride a bike for at least another year...so she throws it out and gets him a BB gun instead. Because that's so much safer!
- Deconstruction: Of Manic Pixie Dream Girl / Blithe Spirit, by showing how people in a realistic setting would react and treat one, and how even The Power of Love has its limits through Leo ultimately breaking up with her.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Stargirl is made a pariah because the school loses a basketball game. Granted, it's the state championship, but at the end of the day, it's just a basketball game. (Of course, it's a little more complicated than that, since much of the story is about how society reacts to people who are unashamedly themselves — weirdness and all.)
- Distant Finale: The epilogue takes place 15 years later.
- Eccentric Mentor: Stargirl is this to the main character, teaching him many things (including meditating Zen-style). A rare female, young, Love Interest example of the trope.
- Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: When Stargirl's popularity is at the lowest it's ever been, some students start believing that she only does so many kind things in order to make them feel guilty that they're not as altruistic and all-loving as her.
- Exact Words: Hillari Kimble warns Stargirl not to sing to her on her birthday. Stargirl doesn't sing to her...she sings the song to Leo.
- Fix Fic: Oddly enough, the sequel is a Licensed Example as it effectively retcons away the Distant Finale the first book provided, ending on a massive Hope Spot for the reunion of Leo and Stargirl.
- A Friend in Need
- Friendless Background: Stargirl starts out this way, both from being the new girl in school and just being her usual weird self.
- Hidden Depths: Stargirl can get a lot more depressed than you'd think she would.
- Innocently Insensitive: Possibly Stargirl's only real character flaw. Giving your boyfriend a valentine? Nothing out of the ordinary. Making said valentine a public declaration of your love for him while both of you are being shunned by the entire student body? He's so embarrassed that he doesn't talk to her for the whole day.
- Insane Troll Logic: The entire student body does some serious mental gymnastics to blame Stargirl for the basketball team losing the State Championships.
- Karma Houdini: Played with. While Hillari Kimble doesn't really get punished per se, at the climax of the book she has to watch Stargirl lead the promgoers in the bunny hop dance. This wouldn't really be a punishment for anyone else, but since it's Hillari, who's the premier Alpha Bitch of the school, not having control of the student body probably counts as one.
- Loon with a Heart of Gold: The sane, but extremely quirky titular heroine is literally the kindest and most pure-hearted character in the novel, making her classmates look like jerks in comparison (the protagonist even jokingly tells her that she's "running for saint").
- The One That Got Away: In the end what Star Girl ends up becoming for Leo.
- Maybe Ever After: The novel ends with Leo hoping he and Stargirl will meet again, and with him getting an anonymous birthday gift that almost certainly came from Stargirl. Not happily-ever-after, per se, but certainly hopeful.
- Peer Pressure Makes You Evil: What ends up as Leo's fatal flaw is his inability to cope with everyone's opinion on himself and on Stargirl.
- P.O.V. Boy, Poster Girl: Leo is the protagonist, but it's Stargirl who sets the plot going. In the sequel, Love, Stargirl, this is inverted.
- Reality Ensues: It's fine to do nice things for people. But if you don't consider how others might react to your actions, the consequences can be disastrous. Stargirl is a genuinely kind and loving person who devotes herself to making other people happier, but between having been homeschooled her entire life and her Cloudcuckoolander attitude, she doesn't understand how the real world works. And it hits her hard:
Jennifer St. John: You meddle into everybodys business. You stick your nose in, whether youre invited or not. Why do you do that?
- She sings "Happy Birthday" to every person in the school on their birthdays; several people get embarrassed. Leo notes to himself that he's glad his birthday is in the summer.
- A senior girl's grandfather dies and the family holds a funeral for him. Stargirl is not invited because the family doesn't know her, but she shows up anyway to pay tribute to him. The mother angrily tells her to leave.
- A boy named Danny has a bike accident and has to spend a week in the hospital. When he comes home, a new bike is anonymously donated by Stargirl to the family. Danny's mother refuses to let him keep it because she's afraid of letting him ride a bike again, so the new bike gets thrown in the trash.
- Perhaps the most damning of all: When Stargirl becomes a cheerleader, she cheers for both her school's basketball team and the other team. As a result, the other cheerleaders and eventually the entire school ostracize her, calling her a traitor. When the team loses a crucial game and its chance to win the championship, the school unanimously blames her, with the team captain stating that seeing her cheer for the other team took the heart out of him.
- When you do something that makes you universally hated, it's very difficult (if not outright impossible) to get your reputation back. Stargirl tries dressing and acting like a normal girl to fit in with the other students, but they still shun her because it doesn't make them forget what she did. Even winning the championship speaking contest doesn't restore her popularity. After receiving her award, she returns to the school expecting a grand homecoming parade, like the previous year's winner got, but all she finds waiting for her are a few teachers and her only remaining friend carrying a cardboard sign.
- One of the only people to stick by Stargirl while she's being shunned is her boyfriend, Leo. They are genuinely in love and enjoy their time together. But since Leo is Stargirl's boyfriend, he gets shunned along with her, and it hurts him. Does he decide that she is worth more than all of them combined? Does he resolve to stick by her, no matter what? No. As much as he loves her, he is not willing to continue being ignored and hated by the entire school just to be with her. Even The Power of Love has its limits.
- Adding onto that, during Valentine's day Stargirl makes her valentine to Leo as a public declaration of her love for him while both of them are being shunned by the entire student body. He's so embarrassed that he refuses to talk to her for the whole day.
- Quirky Ukulele: The quirky Stargirl carries around a ukulele and plays it in public, even when it's inappropriate.
- Teens Are Monsters: The only exceptions are Leo, Stargirl and Dori Dilson. Everyone else falls into one of two categories: mindless sheep or total douchebag.
- Sage Love Interest: The titular character becomes sort of an Eccentric Mentor for the protagonist. She teaches him many things, like meditating Zen style, and has a profound impact on his life.
- Stepford Smiler: Stargirl, of all people has a tendency to become one when she's sad.
- Unusual Pets for Unusual People: Stargirl the Blithe Spirit has a pet rat named Cinnamon who she often carries around.
- Yank the Dog's Chain: Stargirl/Susan wins the speech competition, only to find that she's still as shunned as ever when she arrives at the school parking lot with Leo and there's no one there to celebrate with her but Dori Dilson.