June 01, 2006

An Unsettling Constellation

Every time I read Jerry Spinelli's famous novel, Stargirl, I can't help but feel a little... uncomfortable. I like the novel, in many ways it's a classic tale of keeping identity in high school and being an original, and how people tend to attack things and people who are different, and how there was once this girl who didn't hide, who didn't try to blend in, and ...

And every time I read it, I think, "Man. Couldn't she have tried to blend in a little? I mean, a ukulele. In high school. My gosh. Of course she was going to be ripped to shreds!"

But, part of me always thinks, "It shouldn't be like that."

Well, of course it shouldn't. But, this is high school we're talking about. No 'shoulds' allowed.

Spinelli's novel asks some important questions about popularity and conformity: Would you turn your back on your essential self just to be accepted by the community around you, bent on blending in to the point of wearing protective coloring in the form of the 'right' clothes, listening to the 'right' music, and steering your star by what the most popular kid in the school is doing? How often does that popularity change? How do you know whom to follow?
Is it safer to be your own star?

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