Monday, November 29, 2010

Juli, Stargirl & Alaska - three girls who will move you

Flipped, Stargirl and Looking For Alaska - three books that each feature a remarkable, larger-than-life girl, who stands out from the crowd, and has a life-long impact on those around her.

Flipped by Wendelin van Draanen is about two teens, Bryce & Juli, who have lived next to each other since they were 7.  Juli fell in love with Bryce the moment she saw him.  Bryce on the other hand wishes Juli would just leave him alone.  The story is told in both Juli's and Bryce's voices, in alternating chapters.  This in itself is entertaining - the different take the two of them have on the same situation is quite enlightening.  Over the years, Bryce and Juli both come to realise that sometimes first impressions aren't so reliable.  This is a lovely story, filled with humour, well developed characters and a certain truth about it.

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli tells the story of Stargirl Caraway, an unconventional girl who finds a deep and rewarding joy in making those around her happy.  When she starts attending Mica High (having previously been home schooled) she quickly becomes popular, mostly as a result of her uniqueness.  However, it doesn't take long before she gets offside with the in-crowd, and she is shunned.  The story is narrated by Leo, who is fascinated by Stargirl, and wants to understand what makes her tick.  Leo finds it increasingly difficult to be associated with Stargirl, especially once he too feels the effects of being shunned by the crowd.  
Stargirl provides an interesting commentary on how humans (and no, not just those of the teenage variety) tend to feel happier if they are part of a groups.  And how unpleasant we can often be to those who we don't consider part of 'our group'.

Looking For Alaska by John Green has found a place in my all-time-fave-books list.  This was a debut novel but what a remarkable piece of writing.  The story is narrated by Miles as he transfers to a new boarding school, where he falls in with a group of teens  lead by the enigmatic Alaska.  The story is told in two parts - Before, and After.  Before focuses on the group and their various pranks and antics; After focuses on how the group deals with a tragedy that befalls them.

The characters are skilfully drawn, and achingly real.  It has humour, and pathos, and love, and lust, and tragedy.  It had me laughing as I read one page, then crying just a few short pages later. I loved it.  I felt quite lost when I finished reading it - I didn't want to leave these characters.

These three books are probably often considered to be "coming of age" books, and to be fair, they are aimed at different age groups (Flipped more for the tweens and younger teens; Looking For Alaska young adult and adult; with Stargirl falling somewhere in between) - and yet, as an adult, I found each of them left a little piece with me that I will keep and continue to reflect on.


  1. Cool run-down on each of these - will have to add them to my 'to read' list. Thanks for that :) They all sound really interesting...but don't hold your breath on my thoughts on each book...still have a pile next to my bedside table that would be dangerous if it fell on top of a small child ;)

  2. Did you know Flipped has just been made into a movie directed by Rob Reiner? Princess Bride is my favourite movie ever so I'll have to watch it just because it's directed by him.

  3. Amanda - Yep, I had that problem too. Solved it by replacing bedside-pile with a bookcase, so I'm all OK now should OSH pay a visit.

    Rachael - I finally returned Alaksa today (it was very overdue - BAD librarian!), so it's all yours.

    Christchurchkids - yep, I had seen that. Seems to be receiving mixed reviews. Any idea when it is being released here? I hadn't made the connection with The Princess Bride (LOVE that movie!), and I see that he also directed Stand By Me - which I just loved. I've just been looking at the IMDb site for Stand By Me - what a cast!