From the author of Maniac Magee and Crash, Jerry Spinelli brings us Stargirl- the story of a girl who is unapologetically different. Joining a public highschool after years of home-schooling, Stargirl plays the ukelele, keeps a pet rat in her tote bag, and most disgustingly of all, treats everyone with kindness, serenading them in the lunchroom on their birthdays. Her popular status takes an unexpected turn when she begins to attend the games of their catastrophic football team, and through her outrageous antics begins to draw a crowd. The football team bolster by the support of the attendees, begins to win. But Stargirl cheers for every touchdown. even those of the opposing team, and soon the masses who had come to accept begin to turn against her.
The story is straight-forward and simply told through the eyes of a fellow student, Leo Borlock. Finding himself in love with the unique title character, and concerned for her ostracism, he begins to suggest conformity. But “normal” doesn’t work, and when she tries to fit in, it only makes things worse.
Stargirl is a quick read, intended for 8-9th graders, but it’s heart-wrenching in its simplicity. The lessons on conformity and acceptance are easy to discern, so its no wonder this girl makes our list. Stargirl isn’t afraid to be different, and in a high-school world this takes more than courage, it takes down-right bravery. What I think is special about Stargirl though isn’t that she’s different (in today’s society it seems like hyping up the strange is the newest way to be cool) but more that she’s not afraid to be herself. As different and as unique as they come, she knows that normalcy isn’t her, and she’s not afraid to change back. For Stargirl, it isn’t about fitting in, its about finding the you that fits, which makes her every bit the star that her name suggests.