Is she an alien? Is she home-schooling gone berserk? Is she sniffing fumes? …this and many more queries surround Stargirl Caraway when she makes her appearance at Mica High. Strumming a ukulele, carrying a rat called Cinnamon in her canvas bag and wearing clothes ranging from pioneer gowns to kimonos she’s as strange as they come. Add to that the fact that she does the weirdest, kindest and friendliest things. She sings birthday songs to perfect strangers, drops loose change accidentally on purpose for l’il kids to pick up, dances in the rain and laughs over no joke in particular!!
For the dull-as-ditchwater student body, she is something that they cannot grasp. Indefinable, quirky and kooky. But her eccentricity weaves its way into their hearts and they are soon doing selfless gestures of their own. Especially enamored is the 16-year old narrator Leo Borlock. A wary reluctance on Leo’s part gives way to mutual attraction. Soon they are a couple and he faces a lot of ribbing (not always good-natured)……even being termed as Starboy!
Stargirl is selected to be a cheerleader …and she does so in the truest sense the word. She cheers unabashedly for her team, the spectators…and then she goes one step further and cheers for the other team too. This sours things drastically and Stargirl’s glorious run takes a downward curve.
Admiration quickly gives way to hostility. The now openly shunned Stargirl is unaffected, but Leo suffers the backlash too. He is not used to be treated as an invisible entity. He attempts to change his girlfriend..make her more normal, run-of-the-mill. And she does change....for him. She even takes up her original name: Sarah Julia Caraway. But the antagonism never wanes, …and soon she reverts to her old self……her old, unique, individual self.
The beauty of this book lies in the prose. Simple and lyrical, it conveys an age-old message in the purest way possible. Stargirl Caraway may appear to be a ditzy bohemian girl…a throwback to the 70s Flower-Power era even. But her thoughts are clear, concise and loaded with truth, which is not always easy to swallow. Even Leo at the height of his young love described her most accurately: “She was bendable light: she shone around every corner of my day” .
She takes Leo (and us) into a world that can be good, kind and uncomplicated…..if we only tried, without fear of mockery and recrimination.
It's a tale about well-intentioned non-conformity. A tale about holding your own in a sea of similar faces. A tale about being a fruit-loop in a box of cheerios!