Random Review: Love, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

Love, Stargirl is the sequel to Spinelli’s 2004 charmer, Stargirl.

It’s rough.

It is also interesting.

Love, Stargirl is written as one epically-long letter sent from Stargirl to her Arizona-dwelling ex from the first book, Leo Borlock. As the story opens we find Stargirl still reeling over Leo’s rejection. She’s a bit of a mess, and so is the book at this point. A host of lovable wackos (as only Spinelli can write them) are swiftly dropped on the reader: an agoraphobic former beauty queen, a donut-delivery girl clawing her way from girlhood to adolescence, a completely uninhibited five-year-old who keeps her eyes on the prize, this list goes on and on. Her happy wagon is looking pretty sad. It’s a lot to take, in the beginning, and I wasn’t sure I was going to make it through the book as Stargirl carried on moping and being sanctimonious by turns.

Then, around page one-hundred-twenty-four, it started to gel. Yes, that’s quite a long way in, and it should rightfully give some readers pause. If this isn’t your kind of story, it’s probably not worth the grind to page one-twenty-four. At this point it suddenly becomes clear that each of the extreme characters with whom Stargirl has been spending her time, represents some part of herself or her grieving process for what she had with Leo. Five-year-old Dootsie is her past, her essence, seed of a future Stargirl. Agoraphobic Betty Lou is her loneliness. Donut-delivering Alvina is her struggle to remain true to herself in her dealings with boys.

There are men and boys in the book, too. One mirrors Stargirl, sitting shiva for a lost love; another is a litmus test for future love. This is where the book finally gels, in a moment where Stargirl has tracked down a local ladies-man for reasons she doesn’t really understand. The dialogue between them never fails to spark in a way that her cutesy interactions with Dootsie don’t begin to approach. He is the catalyst for her recovery, asking her the hard questions when she won’t ask them herself.

Stargirl was told from Leo’s perspective: his experience of an exotic creature who appeared in his life and chose him to share hers, until he couldn’t bear her difference any longer. Love, Stargirl takes her down from that mythic pedestal and allows her to be human. Flawed, judgmental, naive, jealous, brave, nurturing, and (perhaps most of all) lost.  She finds her way by shepherding others, reminding herself as she reminds them that world is there waiting when they decide to come back and join it.

I liked this book, but as The Librarian Who Doesn’t Say Sssh noted, it may make a difference whether you are a Leo or a Stargirl. I have always been, for better or worse, a Stargirl. Leos may find this loose, at times seemingly random, emotional narrative exasperating. Trust me that every (???) moment pays off in the end.

Chair Rating:

Unexpected but ultimately quite pleasant.

Unexpected but ultimately quite pleasant.

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2 responses to “Random Review: Love, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

  1. I loved Stargirl and I’m delighted that there’s a sequel! This is a great review, and I suspect I’m something of a Stargirl myself so ploughing through the book until pg 124 shouldn’t be too bad. 🙂

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