Gr 6-10-High school is a time of great conformity, when being just like everybody else is of paramount importance. So it is no surprise that Stargirl Caraway causes such excitement and confusion when she arrives at Mica High in Arizona. Initially, everyone is charmed by her unconventional behavior- she wears unusual clothing, she serenades the lunchroom with her ukulele, she practices random acts of kindness, she is cheerleader extraordinaire in a place with no school spirit. Naturally, this cannot last and eventually her individuality is reviled. The story is told by Leo, who falls in love with Stargirl's zany originality, but who then finds himself unable to let go of the need to be conventional. Spinelli's use of a narrator allows readers the distance necessary to appreciate Stargirl's eccentricity and Leo's need to belong to the group, without removing them from the immediacy of the story. That makes the ending all the more disappointing-to discover that Leo is looking back imposes an unnecessary adult perspective on what happened in high school. The prose lapses into occasionally unfortunate flowery flights, but this will not bother those readers-girls especially-who will understand how it feels to not quite fit the mold and who attempt to exult in their differences.-Sharon Grover, Arlington County Department of Libraries, VA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Ritter, in the sort of dynamic, focused performance that makes him a versatile actor, effortlessly walks the halls of Mica Area High School as 16-year-old Leo Borlock, a boy coming to grips with first love and the pressures of conformity. Junior year takes a most unusual track for Leo, a proud-to-be-ordinary kid, as well as most of the student body, when a new sophomore named Stargirl arrives on the scene. With her odd clothes, pet rat named Cinnamon and penchant for playing the ukulele during lunch, free spirit Stargirl turns the school on its ear. But before Leo really knows it's happening, Stargirl steals his heart, a development that eventually puts him at odds with just about everyone. As his love for Stargirl grows, so does his concern that they are an oddity in the world; he finds himself facing a difficult choice between society and his girlfriend. With a mesmerizing reading rhythm peppered with spirited and heartfelt dialogue, Ritter fully captures the emotional current of Spinelli's text. He relates the humorous details, clique-related dramas and intense heartbreak of high school life with a knowing tone that young listeners will likely embrace. Ages 12-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.