(minor spoilers ahead) (also if this was your favorite book as a kid, this review might make you a little angry)
I had some fun with this book. But in the same way I had fun with say, Joel Schumacher’s Batman and Robin.
It’s kind of hilariously awful.
Stargirl (aka Susan, she gives herself a new name whenever she feels like it, as you do) is pretty much this:
Yes, I know Stargirl isn’t a film, and I know it was written a few years before film critic Nathan Rabin coined the term… but come on—Stargirl is the quintessential weird girl who fascinates a boy and then helps him believe in himself. *tear*
And just because the term Manic Pixie Dream Girl didn’t exist before 2004, doesn’t mean the concept wasn’t around (Audrey Hepburn was the original), or that MPDGs exist only in movies (we’ve got Lux in The Virgin Suicides, Sam in Perks of Being a Wallflower, and Alaska in Looking for Alaska just to name a few). I’m not against the trope entirely. The problem isn’t that the trope exists, the problem is that it’s overused. When it’s done well I can let it slide, but Stargirl is missing one important half of the Manic Pixie equation. The guy she’s supposed to be changing for the better has no personality. He’s an empty shell, along with all the other characters. They are so mind-numbingly normal. So all we’ve got is Stargirl acting weird in a vacuum, and that’s how a book that attempts to be inspiring turns out hilariously bad.
Here’s some of the crap Stargirl gets up to:
-She plays the ukulele (guitar is too mainstream)
-As a cheerleader, she cheers for both her school’s team and the other school’s team
-She brings her pet rat to school (wish I was making this up)
-She performs random acts of kindness, which would be sweet if she didn’t go as far as stalking people to find out what they need in life. She even went to a funeral of a guy she didn’t know, only to get thrown out by one of his family members.
-At prom, she shows up in an amazing dress, wows everyone, and get people to do The Bunny Hop. I can’t even…
[Bigger spoiler in the next paragraph]:
And then at the end she just disappears. Moves out of town for whatever reason. And like a decade later the main guy is still obsessed with her. He recalls a time in college when he and the retired teacher he and Stargirl used to visit a lot go to Stargirl’s favorite spot and pay respect to her as if she was a god.
That’s creepy. It’s weird enough that the guy is still hung up on his 11th grade crush, but it’s even weirder that the old man was so enamored by this young girl. It was even implied that going back to Stargirl’s favorite spot was the old man’s dying wish. Wtf?
In Conclusion: If I read this when I was 10 I probably would have liked it. I can see why a lot of 10, 11, 12-year-olds would really like it. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with giving this to a 10-year-old to read, as long as you explain to them that while it’s good to admire people who are unique, at the end of the day no one is super-extraordinary. We’re all people. Other than that, it’ll just give kids unrealistic expectations about high school, which they get on The Disney Channel all the time anyway. I wouldn’t say Stargirl is worthwhile to read as an adult. Unless you read it outloud to a buddy while you’re both drunk. That sounds like fun.