Why I can’t take or leave Stargirl

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Okay, a lot of people are calling it classic. My friends who read it rated it 5 and I’ve seen the reviews. Stargirl is like one of the best books out there.

Surprisingly though, and I hope you won’t kill me for saying this, I felt empty. Not in a bad sense, but I have this ‘what did I just read?’ post-book feelings syndrome. Or something. It’s not like it fails to give a lasting impact (I won’t write this if that were the case). It’s actually a very good book just that my soul isn’t responding. I’m confused all throughout. It felt so…extreme that, at one point, I started to ask myself if the book is magic real. It’s so bizarre! Half the time, I can’t understand what’s happening. Or why it’s even allowed to happen. My eyebrows are all scrunched as I ask myself if Stargirl is even possible. She probably isn’t. And it bothers me that people are acting as if she is.

I don’t know if I have to be intelligent to be able to grasp what they see but, so far, based on what other people wrote she’s all about nonconformity. You’re a heroine like Stargirl if you decide not to adhere to social norms. I’m sorry? Let me clarify that. Is conformity bad? It isn’t (in it’s purest sense) but I get the feeling that Hillari’s portrayal and Leo’s guilt are trying to say that it is. As soon as we enter social contract, I think that conformity is the most acceptable, realistic course of action to take. To recognize the Stargirl in you (and this is confirmed by Archie) is like conceding that you’re willing to return to that primitive, lawless communal living where laws do not exist. Where instinct (the heart) rules (hence, the title).

“And I think every once in a while someone comes along who is a little more primitive than the rest of us, a little closer to our beginnings, a little more in touch with the stuff we’re made of.”

It’ll be alright if we’re all Stargirl. Stargirl’s efforts are innocent and kind. But  we’re real and we don’t want that. That’s so idealistic. It might be cynical of me to say but we’re not innocent and kind. We’re tainted.

This is why I find it so…baffling that a lot of people are identifying with her character. Sure we can be a little bit unique, but she’s on an entirely different level. She’s misplaced. She belongs to another world. Unless Stargirl is symbolic…her character is bound to unnerve.

Moving on, I just have one big question. I’m really, really curious. Correct me if I’m wrong, is this book influenced by Taoism? I’ve been searching for reviews that will mention this but since I found none, maybe I misunderstood. I only have a vague idea of its principle so…anyway, the enchanted place part? The thing that she’s been teaching Leo? Losing one’s self and being one with nature to become more aware of everything? Purging off your thoughts and action – doing nothing – to go too that ‘enchanted’ place? That is, to achieve Tao?

The Function of the Dao

The function of a room,
Is in its emptiness.
A room that is cluttered,
Has less space to live.
So it is with the Dao.

and

The One True Voice

I aspire to silence the voices,
That I might hear the One True Voice.
When that One True Voice is silenced,
I shall hear Everything.

Another example is when she was being antagonized by everyone (even her boyfriend) for being so different. She comes off as an arrogant brat because she can’t give a damn about what others think, but that’s not true right? She doesn’t change for them because she doesn’t have to go against the flow. In line with a Taoist’s principle, she must aim to live by her nature. By not facing the voices that say she must conform, she becomes distinguished as heroine/individualistic/unique by the readers.

The strength of weakness

Be wary of the very strong
And they shall become weak.
Be dismissed as being weak –
And that shall be your strength.
Remember that the oceans place themselves
Below the land;
But all rivers flow into them.
And remember, too,
That water – the most Pliant of all substances –
Has shaped continents.

The last two lines…that’s exactly what happens in the last part of the book right?

“She did it for you, you know.”

“What?”

“Gave up her self, for a while there. She loved you that much. What an incredibly lucky kid you were.”

On the other hand, when she tried to give up Stargirl for Leo and be ‘normal’, everything crumbles. She starts to have expectations (which is totally a no-no for Taoism), then gets sad (two pebbles left on her mini-wagon) because it won’t go the way she imagined it. The way Leo promised her.

Nothing

All creation was preceded by Nothing.
“Nothing”, therefore, is the substance
From which all things come,
And to which they shall return.

That infinite Nothing gave rise to nature.
Nature’s perfect symmetry is instinctive.
Whatever upsets that balance can be said to be wrong.

We are all part of nature.
As such, that instinct is part of us.
To contribute to the balance of all things,
Is to live in harmony with one’s self.
To move against the effortless flow,
Is to cause disruption to our surroundings,
And so to us.

Which is why I said she doesn’t belong to this world. She can’t exist here without changing and destroying herself in the process. Or making the standards of the world change for her. Which is also equally absurd.

Oh well, I don’t know. I’m not really that intelligent to be talking about these stuff. When I read Stargirl, I was actually looking for a light read. But this seems to require profoundness and I can’t give it just that. That’s why I probably felt empty.

I gave it two stars on GR because even if I wanted to give it five…I can’t ;A; I’m hoping to re-read this someday to give it a higher rating.

Credits to: Tao Poems for the reference poetry and Taoism 101: Introduction to the Tao for helping me learn about Taoism!
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3 thoughts on “Why I can’t take or leave Stargirl

  1. theradioactivesamurai

    Bea! I’m glad you finally checked out the book.

    Reading your review made me revisit my feelings about Stargirl. I’m not here to defend him, I guess; I just want to shed some light about why I like it so much. (Disclaimer: I’m an idealist.)

    My eyebrows are all scrunched as I ask myself if Stargirl is even possible. She probably isn’t. And it bothers me that people are acting as if she is.

    Stargirl wasn’t my first Spinelli novel; I’ve been exposed to him prior (I’ve been reading his work since grade school) and even after reading his other works, he has the same kind of character – I’m guessing now that they’re hyperboles to exaggerate a point. That’s why when we were talking about this, I was telling you that she didn’t feel all that alien anymore. So I suppose Stargirl felt ‘normal’ to me because of my exposure to his work.

    Also, I think it’s sort of a pattern in his books: how the normal people keep denying the strange character’s existence at first. Leo and their schoolmates went through this phase. “She’s not real. She’s not real.” IIRC, this is the same for his other books, haha.

    In any case, I thought your connection to Taoism was interesting. :)) I guess it’s because I wasn’t aware of it that I didn’t make the connection, pero oo nga. It kind of sounds familiar. And I found it interesting knowing that you’re a realist. Books really do send different messages to different people no?

    I echo your thoughts about the book talking about recognizing “the Stargirl in you (and this is confirmed by Archie) is like conceding that you’re willing to return to that primitive, lawless communal living where laws do not exist.” But, for me, rather than being anti-conformity, Stargirl was more focused on being true to yourself – to embracing your quirks, or to embracing what’s strange in you, or to embracing what makes you /you/. No matter how little. For me, that ‘primitive’ part is the part that’s free from what others expect from you and is something you already are, rather than something you’re forced to do. (I’m saying this with the context that I do believe that people all have a built-in moral compass and are inherently good.) “We are all stardust”, according to Science. I think this is why the character’s named this way.

    And rather than anti-conformity, it’s about acceptance – the students were placed in a bad light not mainly because they weren’t special, but because they hated Stargirl for not being like them.

    In this book, another thing I found quite… lovely (?) is the fact that Stargirl wanted to be accepted despite all her quirkiness. She was loud about herself – she practically threw herself right smack in the middle of the norm. I’d like to think that she wanted to be part of it as she already is and that she kept doing that so she didn’t have to let go of who she was, but she learns that things just don’t work that way.

    Pero tbh I’m not 100% confident about these things I just typed. =)) It’s been years since my last reread and I’m looking back at the book in my memories.

    Interestingly, Stargirl normalizes in Love, Stargirl. She eventually grows up – and I think this is why Love, Stargirl’s still my favorite Spinelli book and why I can say that it’s not criticizing conformity. I think that in the first book, she learned that there are people she needed to change for, because they’re worth ‘curbing’ that Stargirlness for without completely losing the essence of who she is.

    “We, Arnolds, our hearts yearn backward. We long to be found, hoping our searchers have not given up and gone home. But I no longer hope to be found, Leo. Do not follow me! Let’s just be fabulously where we are and who we are. You be you and I’ll be me, today and today and today, and let’s trust the future to tomorrow.”

    Reply
    1. beeyeah Post author

      Thanks for your thoughts! Maybe it’s because of the other reviews that I read online that my response turned out this way. And also because Leo keeps on feeling guilty that he wants Stargirl to at least follow some social rules. I mean, it’s a completely normal response given Stargirl’s disposition. Stargirl could’ve still remained the pretty, innocent, unique her w/o going overboard.

      But yes! I totally agree! re: “Stargirl was more focused on being true to yourself – to embracing your quirks, or to embracing what’s strange in you, or to embracing what makes you /you/.” This is symbolically speaking, of course. Yeah, she’s a hyperbole. This also follows my thoughts on Taoism (disclaimer too! I only have little knowledge of this because we just discussed this in passing in one of my major subjects in the university. And that’s two years ago OTL).

      On another note, I was thinking if she really wanted to be accepted. re: “In this book, another thing I found quite… lovely (?) is the fact that Stargirl wanted to be accepted despite all her quirkiness. She was loud about herself – she practically threw herself right smack in the middle of the norm.” The idea of acceptance (for me) is equivalent to an expectation on Stargirl’s end (which is a no-no in Taoism [accdg to what I read]). If she was thinking this way, she would’ve done what Leo wanted a long time ago. Change. Because her special quirks – as it goes against the established rules of the society – will never be allowed in their world. It will be forced (magiging stubborn ang portrayal nya instead of heroine) and therefore will not be any different as the time when she pushed herself to let go of Stargirl. Rather than acceptance, I was thinking that she just simply chose not to respond to these people’s demands. She just let the criticisms flow instead of going against them. She just stayed true to her nature (nothing more). Well, I might’ve been so influenced by the idea that this book followed Taoism principles.

      The book is actually really good. I would’ve rated it 5 any other day. But since I rated based on my feelings (that is, bafflement and emptiness), I gave it a lower rating. I’m planning to re-read this one day. It’s so thought-provoking despite the easy read writing style. I’ll read the second installment as per your advice the last time we met. hihi I might’ve been shocked because this is the first Spinelli book that I read.

      Again, thanks for reading and sharing!!! Your comment gave me a wider perspective 😀

      Reply
  2. theradioactivesamurai

    OH MY GOD WAIT HUHU MY SPOILER TAG I PUT IN DIDN’T APPEAR PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE SKIP THE PARAGRAPH AFTER ‘BOOK IN MY MEMORIES’ BECAUSE THE NEXT PART HAS LOVE, STARGIRL SPOILERS =(((((

    Reply

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