Wednesday, August 29

Abandoned: Love, Stargirl


by Jerry Spinelli
Random House 2007

Spoilers included, if you care.

How sad. When Stargirl was published half a lifetime ago I loved it. I loved her. I even loved the ending which, I have come to discover from others, was not the most universally loved part of that book. No matter, it was and still is, a great little book to me.

Immediately afterward I wondered what happened next but knew better than to hitch my wish to a star that Spinelli would write a follow-up. Could he capture the same lightning in a bottle, I wondered?

I wonder no more. I've had access to the ARC of this book for seven months now but I just couldn't bring myself to read it. I was torn: I wanted it to be good, and I didn't want to tarnish my memories of the first book. Enough about me.

What worked with Stargirl was that it was a portrait of Stargirl viewed from the outside, from the perspective of Leo, average boy. We watched Leo struggle with recognizing the outsider for who and what she was, watched how he agonized over defending and rejecting her, using this confusion to better define himself and his beliefs. She was who she was and we had Leo's world to contrast it against.

Sixty pages into Love, Stargirl and I feel like Leo led us astray, like his vision was clouded by... something, I don't know. Adolescent blinders? It's the same Stargirl, but she's inside some Bizarro World where everything around her is as weird (or weirder) than she is. Her diary entries addressed to Leo pick up shortly after where the previous book left off but without a baseline normal to gauge against it's like some fun house mirror version of Stargirl.

In a word, yuk.

There's a precocious neighbor kid that is supposed to re-ground Stargirl but, one, I don't buy into her as a character and, two, she annoys me to the point that every time I saw her appear I wanted to skip ahead to when she'd disappear. But she's a fairly main character, and reading only those parts without the little snot would leave me with a government pamphlet of a book. Then there's this old guy mooning in the graveyard and I'm, like, yeah, okay, whatever, that's kind of a tired image. And the scruffy boy that's suppose to show Stargirl how much she's changed and grown since she left Leo and...

Wait! The ghosts of Christmas past, present and future! Who she was, is and could be! Yawn!

That's grasping. I really couldn't get beyond those first 60 pages before jumping to the end to read the last chapter. And there she is, at the end of her diary, about ready to mail off her book-length epistle to Leo with the promise that one day they'll meet again, if the accident will. And if I were Leo I'd shake my head and wonder what this girl was using for brains because, honestly, after a year of silence, if I got this in the mail I'd probably consider myself lucky she was gone.

There's a part of me that thinks it's wrong to review a book I couldn't finish. I don't ditch a book that often, usually I put it aside and try several more times before giving it another shot, eventually forcing myself to finish. And even then, while I will review things I don't like I don't review everything I hate. But this book is trading on my memory of a book I loved and to crush that memory so completely, well, I just couldn't let it go unnoted.

If there was a great cry across the land from those of us who begged to know more about Stargirl, and if after years of not writing about her Jerry Spinelli finally gave in and wrote this book, and if my unconscious thoughts were part of that transmission then I kindly apologize and respectfully ask for my thoughts back.
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