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A new middle-grade novel By Courtney Anz 

Copyright 2013-2015. Courtney Anz. All rights reserved. 

Middle Grade Recommendation:

Star Girl, by Jerry Spinelli

This is not a kid’s book. As easy a read that this book is, Star Girl is a big-thinker book for readers who want to feel deeply-moving stories. I put this in the Middle Grade section, because it is completely appropriate for any age. The protagonists are high schoolers; an awkward boy and an unusual girl (Star Girl) who perplexes everyone with her nonconformity.

 Star Girl arrives at Mica High with no known history. Rumors abound that her odd ways of dressing, speaking out of turn, and not being aware of high school hierarchical rules are due to either her arrival from space, or that she is a California-spectacular blonde, or a plant for the local narc control. It turns out she has been home-schooled her entire life and does not care what others think of her. That innocence throws Mica High for a wholly year-long, tumultuous undoing and reinventing.

The crux of the story is Leo Borlock’s interpretation, infatuation, and teenage crisis management of what to do with the indefinable Star Girl. On one hand, she becomes his path to finding freedom. On the other, he experiences social shunning from nearly the entire student body.

Ultimately, the extremes are beyond what I believe are typical for an entire student body. But what is not unusual is the tragedy when gang mentality galvanizes an impressionable population against a single individual.

Fortunate for us, Star Girl returns to who she is. Whoever rejected her individuality turned their backs to her gifts. And they talked about the resulting emptiness for years ever after.

The only lacking I find in this book is in its cover. As simply stylized as it is – truly lovely in the literal translation of the story to title – readers judge a book by its cover. I’m afraid Spinelli did not get his readership of this book because readers wanting a more “mature” read, were scared away by the juvenile appearance of this book. Perhaps that is part of Spinelli’s message in trusting this cover art – be daring – read something that seems to make you uncomfortable, and come away having learned something new about yourself.

I loved this book.