Free Study Guide: Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

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The conflict of a plot is the major problem experienced by the protagonist. In this novel, the major problem is the way Stargirl is treated as an outsider by the students and peers at her new high school.


The protagonist of a story is the main character who traditionally undergoes some sort of change. He or she must usually overcome some opposing force. The protagonist in this story is Stargirl. a new student at Mica Area High School.


The antagonist of a story is the character that provides an obstacle for the protagonist. The antagonist in Stargirl is Hillari Kimble, a student who never liked Stargirl, not even the first day she saw her, and not even when Stargirl was very popular. To a lesser degree, the student body as a whole, with the exception of Dori Dilson, was also an antagonist.


The climax of a plot is the major turning point that allows the protagonist to resolve the conflict. In this novel the climax occurs when Stargirl returns to an empty parking lot coming home from the oratorical contest.


The outcome, resolution, or denouement occurs in the final chapters when Stargirl moved away from Mica, Arizona.


Stargirl left homeschooling and enrolled in the tenth grade of a public high school in Arizona. She was a free spirit with a lot of enthusiasm. The other students had difficulty understanding her when she arrived. Students liked her when she cheered for the football team by cavorting on the football field. She was asked to join the cheerleading squad and she did join.

Then during the basketball season, many of the fans thought that she had too much sympathy for an injured player on one of the opposing teams. Also, they did not like the way she cheered the opposing teams’ baskets. And, she did not want to cheer and add to the misery of teams that her team, the Mica Electrons, were beating. This turned the school against her. The students shunned Stargirl and her boyfriend, Leo. Leo had trouble dealing with the shunning. He wanted Stargirl to try to be more like the other students. She did change for Leo, but, the shunning continued. So, Stargirl returned to the way she had been.

Stargirl went to the Ocotillo Ball without a date. She danced by herself at first, but then she asked the band to play a bunny hop. She led the bunny hoppers first around the outdoor dance floor, then over a wider area, and then out into the desert where the line disappeared for a long time before they returned. Everyone except Hillari, a student who never liked Stargirl, had a great time.

After the dance, Stargirl never returned to school. She and her family left the state. Her spirit did remain, however, in ways like the small group of basketball fans who, years later at school basketball games, always cheered the first basket scored by the opposing team.


The importance of being yourself.

The importance of knowing what is really important.

The interconnectedness of everyone.

See additional detail in the Theme Analysis Section


The mood is both upbeat and sad. It varies with what the narrator, Leo, is describing. The upbeat parts make the sad parts even sadder than they would otherwise be. But, after finishing the book, we are left with an upbeat, if somewhat subdued feeling. While we may wish that Leo and Stargirl’s relationship continued on into the future, the fact that Stargirl did make a long-term difference at Mica Area High School ameliorates the ending.

Jerry Spinelli - BIOGRAPHY

Jerry Spinelli, the author of Stargirl (published 2000), has written many other books, including Maniac Magee, which won the 1991 Newbery Medal. The Newbery Medal is an award given each year to an author by librarians. It is named after an eighteenth century British bookseller who was interested in producing quality books.

Jerry Spinelli also wrote an autobiography which he titled Knots in My Yo-Yo String: The Autobiography of a Kid. It covers what he can first remember through his high school years. Stargirl won the ALA Best Books for Young Adults award. ALA means American Library Association.

Jerry Spinelli was born in Norristown, Pennsylvania. He now lives near there, in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. He has said that the research for his books was done as he was growing up. What he meant was that his stories come from his experiences.

One of the people to whom he dedicates this book is his wife Eileen, whom he describes as “my Stargirl.” Of the people he knows, she is the one who is most like Stargirl. She is also an author. They have six children.


Arizona, where the story is set, is a very interesting state. While it is a great place to live, it is also a fascinating place to visit. The vegetation is quite different than that found in northern and eastern states.

Spinelli adds many references to the natural surroundings in Arizona in telling the story. He mentions Señor Saguaro, the name given to a large saguaro cactus by Archie Brubaker. The author also mentions the Maricopa Mountains, the Sonoran Desert, elf owls amd mud frogs. If you have an opportunity, do an online search for photos of “saguaro,” “elf owl,” “mud frog,” “Maricopa Mountains” and/or “Sonoran Desert.”

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Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli: Free BookNotes Summary

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