Rating - 4: worth reading multiple times (buy it)
Stargirl is one of the best books ever.
Stargirl herself is a wonderful character. She is uplifting and expressive. She reminds us that life is beautiful, to be embraced fully. The world is a great place to be, full of wonders great and small. Love is a good thing. A smile is worth having.
It is hard to address simple truths without sounding trite, as that last paragraph probably did. A great piece of art can take a small theme and explore it, flesh out a picture of a time, a place, a feeling. Reading Stargirl is like bathing in sunlight.
Stargirl captures perfectly a sense of life. Better, it captures two, because our narrator, Leo, is a completely different person. Through his eyes, we see Stargirl's world and how it intersects with his own. The characters are true to themselves. The world reacts appropriately.
There are so many books where the plot or characters ring hollow at times, that something was thrown in to make a point or because the author could not carry out the characters effectively. Every character here speaks with his or her own voice, win or lose. There is never a sense of, "S/he wouldn't do that!" There is only one scene that does not seem to flow perfectly naturally.
Stargirl, despite bringing light, is not always happy. Sometimes we make mistakes. Sometimes bad things happen. All of these make sense; the author does not heap unnecessary suffering on her, but actions have consequences, not always good. The picture is nuanced, without ever being unclear.
Leo is the perfect narrator, and you can grow to hate him for it. A character named Wayne Parr is held out as the essence of banal conformity, but Leo seems a better embodiment. Leo is not even exceptional in that respect, averagely average, middlingly middling. He is another sheep in the flock, as greatful to be in the fold as George Babbitt. He sees something special and wants it to be normal; he loves what makes it unique and wants to take that away so that it will fit with the rest of his life.
What does she see in him?
The book explores a deep yet clear picture of the world. We butt against the limits of Leo's perspective as narrator, so some of the insights are just strongly implied. I respect writing that makes a view perfectly clear without having that Aesop or John Galt moment of explicit moralizing. We even have that scene in the denouement where the father figure is supposed to hand down the lesson to the protagonist; he explicitly stops, does not complete it. It works. If it is not clear to you what has happened, you need reflection, not proselytizing.
Stargirl is 180 pages at a YA reading level. Skip going to the theater for a movie; it will take about as long to read the book. You will be hard-pressed to find something that gives as much for the time spent.
Amazon link (hardcover)