Stargirl Book Poster Image


A must-read for middle-schoolers to discuss.
Parents recommendPopular with kids

What parents need to know

Positive messages

A bittersweet paean to eccentricity and nonconformity, it is also a scathing commentary on teenagers, which makes its popularity with them all the more interesting.

Positive role models

The main character doesn't have the courage to stand up to his peers, who behave abominably to a girl who is different.

Not applicable

A kiss.

Not applicable

The names of stores are mentioned in a trip to the mall.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

One adult character smokes a pipe.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Stargirl is a sort of supernatural character who is difficult to encapsulate, despite her classmates' repeated attempts to pigeonhole her. Few parents will have objections to the content, but there is one scene in particular where Stargirl's peers verbally attack her on a television show. A romantic relationship also develops between the two main characters, but it's completely innocent. Every middle schooler should read and discuss this -- and, fortunately, many of them do.

What's the story?

11th-grader Leo has never met anyone like Stargirl, and neither has anyone else at Mica High. She dances around the cafeteria playing a ukulele, and never misses a chance to sing "Happy Birthday." She doesn't act right, she dresses weird, and she is always blazingly herself. At first the students are puzzled, then entranced, and Stargirl becomes the most popular girl at school. And Leo is in love.

But just as quickly Stargirl becomes the most despised student, shunned by the others, and Leo, now her boyfriend, is shunned with her. Though she has opened him up to new ways of experiencing life, when forced to choose between Stargirl and everyone else, Leo does what any teenager would do, and that choice reverberates down the rest of the years of his life.

Is it any good?


This is a gently mystical, thought-provoking, and enchanting rumination on conformity. It is, in some ways, a YA version of The Little Prince, or a female version of Spinelli's own award-winning Maniac Magee. A bittersweet paean to eccentricity and nonconformity, it is also a scathing commentary on teenagers, which makes its popularity with them all the more interesting.

Like much of Spinelli's best work, it straddles the line between reality and fantasy, dwelling in the land of legend and allegory. Spinelli himself says, in an interview printed in the back of the book, "the character [is] intended to raise dust in the corners of credibility, to challenge our routine ways of seeing ourselves." It does that -- it's hard to imagine young teens reading this and not having to think hard about their friends, actions, and the outcasts in their own world.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about why Leo is drawn to Stargirl and why he feels he has to choose between her and his friends.

  • If Stargirl showed up at your school, how do you think you and your friends would treat her?

  • Do you see Stargirl as a role model? Why? What about Leo?

Book details

Author:Jerry Spinelli
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Alfred A. Knopf
Publication date:September 7, 2003
Number of pages:186
Publisher's recommended age(s):12 - 17

This review of Stargirl was written by

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Kid, 11 years old February 2, 2011

Quite Possibly the Best Book I Have Ever Read

This is a REALLY good book. Leo may not be the best role model, but I really think that Stargirl is because she acts like... herself, no matter what other people think of her. There are some mean characters, but Stargirl always does what she thinks is right. There is a kiss, and some hand holding and general displays of affection. Overall, a very good book for mature people to read, but not really little kids.
What other families should know
Great role models
Kid, 12 years old November 14, 2010
I had some doubts about this book going into it. I mean, I didn't really like the sound of a book called 'Stargirl'. Man, was I wrong. Stargirl can be related to by anyone who has ever felt weird, or like they are being shunned by the entire world. (Oh, just saying, this book is probably appropriate for 9+, but I think you have to be middle-school age and up to really appreciate it.) Stargirl is a wonderful person, and the end made me get teary. Very good book.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Parent Written bySuvorov October 21, 2013

Do Not Pass this one Up!

Wow. I am going to have to extend my all time favorites list to twenty so this makes it on there. Stargirl is a story about... I don't even know how to summarize. Obviously you can read the summaries on Goodreads, Barnes & Noble and Amazon, but they wouldn't come close to explaining what you will take away from this book. I guess the closest I can come to summarizing is- Stargirl is the story of someone who marches to the beat of her own drummer and what happens when she breaks into the rigid structure of conformity that is known as high school. Before I begin my comments, please keep in mind that I am an adult. At the time of this review, I am in my early forties. So while the story is great, the parts that sing to me are completely different than what captures my 10 year old daughter's attention. Reading my comments below, you may think this book is one long intellectual quote after another, but it is not. This is a high school story with drama, crushes, mean girls, cheerleading, awkward lunch scenes, ukuleles and nose picking. I'm not kidding. I could not get through the nose picking scene without stopping several times to laugh and catch my breath, and it isn't even that long. As I was saying, despite my comments below, trust me, Stargirl is a very good book to read together with your kids, and I do emphasize 'together.' I cannot emphasize that enough. Even if you do not regularly read aloud with your child, which I highly recommend (reading that is, not the not reading), this book may be the place to start or recommence. It is short and a quick read. And you definitely want to read it with your child. It is a great opportunity to get kids to talk because I guarantee Stargirl will bring up recollections of real life incidents. This book is so incredibly beautiful. I laughed. I cried. I had to stop from time to time to take in what I had just read. The writing, phenomenal- The echo of her laughter is the second sunrise I awaken to each day, and at night I feel it is more than stars looking down on me. p148. I have to admit I am not quite up on my literary devices, but I believe the following quote is a metaphor. Please someone correct me in the comments section if I am wrong. This is not the only reference to frogs so it would make a good discussion point. I just never thought a quote that includes frogs could be so eloquent- It was wonderful to see, wonderful to be in the middle of: we mud frogs awakening all around. We were awash in tiny attentions. Small gestures, words, empathies thought to be extinct came to life. For years the strangers among us had passed sullenly in the hallways; now we looked, we nodded, we smiled. If someone got an A, others celebrated, too. If someone sprained an ankle, others felt the pain. We discovered the color of each other's eyes. It was a rebellion she led, a rebellion for rather than against. For ourselves. For the dormant mud frogs we had been for so long. p38 And while there are very funny scenes in the book, especially the nose picking scene, I know I already mentioned that but it is really funny and deserves to be mentioned twice, there are frequently quotes that are so poignant they take your breath away- It's in the morning, for most of us. It's that time, those few seconds when we're coming out of sleep but we're not really awake yet. For those few seconds we're something more primitive than what we are about to become. We have just slept the sleep of our most distant ancestors, and something of them and their world still clings to us. For those few moments we are unformed, uncivilized. We are not the people we know as ourselves, but creatures more in tune with a tree than a keyboard. We are untitled, unnamed, natural, suspended between was and will be, the tadpole before the frog, the worm before the butterfly. We are, for a few brief moments, anything and everything we could be. p85 Ahh... there are so many quotes I want to share, but I don't want to take away the joy of discovering them yourself during the course of this breathtaking story. I guess what I find most beautiful about Stargirl is how in a world that sometimes makes us feel so insignificant, we see how one person can have such a huge impact on an individual and community with only a brief presence. Do yourself a favor- read the book. On a personal note... My daughter marches to the beat of her own drummer as well, as you can see from the picture. She was about 6 years old when she started dressing herself for school and this was not even the least... unique... of her outfits. She thought she looked good. Why would I want to contradict that? I myself did not always conform to social norms, and while I truly believe I am a happier person for it, it wasn't easy. It is much harder to watch my daughter go through it. She is younger and more immature than her classmates, so she doesn't always understand why she is being punished socially for some of the things she does. When I heard about Stargirl, I thought it would be the perfect book for her to read. First, because I knew she would sympathize with Stargirl and see the situation from a larger perspective. Also, so when she sees a Stargirl, hopefully she will be more likely to befriend her rather than join the crowd in distancing themselves. As we read, she was excited when good things happened to Stargirl. She laughed at the funny things Stargirl did, not at Stargirl, but because Stargirl's behavior was fun and out of the ordinary. She became upset and indignant when Stargirl was treated poorly. I can only hope she remembers that feeling when she sees someone else being treated poorly just for being different. And I hope she remembers how much she loved Stargirl's uniqueness, finding strength and taking pride in her own when she herself is the target of less than kind behavior.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models