talkin’ full scholarship

I wanted to really like Stargirl, by Jerry Spinelli. Really, I did. In some ways, I did like it. I appreciated a young adult novel that did not center around drugs and sex and alcohol, but on the more mundane struggles of adolescence, of fitting in and what we should do in order to accomplish it. Stargirl Caraway shows up as a sophomore at Mica High and immediately has the halls buzzing with her non-conformist hair and clothes and make-up and approach to friendship. She carries her pet rat to class and sings happy birthday to students in the cafeteria accompanied by her ukulele. Naturally, she is non-conformist because she was home-schooled and doesn’t understand the Borg collective that is her peer group, as understood and explained by her boyfriend Leo. When he asks her why she came to school, she tells him that she wanted friends. *sigh* Really, Spinelli? You couldn’t think of a more realistic reason for a homeschooled kid to go to high school, like a more simple college application process or organized sports? This book was too saccharine, too cliched to be everything it was cut out to be.

I also finished The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery today. I don’t know what I think about this one. I wanted to really like it, but it was really hyper-intellectual, with discussions of Japanese culture and philosophies of beauty and art.  Twelve-year olds with complex existential theories and concierges with strange complexes about being known to be intelligent seem a little over the top. There are good elements. The writing is strong, with moments of sweet profundity (haha, who’s being snobbish now) that really pull you along, but there’s so much Sophie’s World-like overexplanation of the concepts.  I think the real reason that this book has thus far done well in the States is that people in reviews have claimed that it might be “too French” for Americans, and in a scramble to disprove this, we all have nodded sagely at the Emporer’s nakedness and declared this book to be a stunning masterpiece. It’s okay, don’t get me wrong, but it does not speak to the human condition very well unless you really identify with the misunderstood uber intelligent narrators and see yourself, like them, as standing against a world that misunderstands and maligns you for your brilliance.

Sadly, I don’t.

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5 thoughts on “talkin’ full scholarship

  1. I tried reading The Elegance of the Hedgehog. I enjoyed the beginning, but after a while, I got tired of it. Put the book down and next thing I knew it was time to return it back to the library. Never finished it and don’t think I ever will.

  2. EEEEEEEEEE. That was precisely what I thought of Hedgehog! I did like a lot of it although *SPOILER*(for people who haven’t read it)

    I totally knew she was going to kill the concierge off, like, half way through the book. I also HATED Sophie’s World, I felt like it muddied the waters of fiction. I can barely stomach Salinger’s Teddy as an adult; all of these hyper-intellectual tots give me the heebie-jeebie’s.
    That’s not true, I am mad-crazy over Ludo in Helen deWitt’s The Last Samurai. Read it? My love of it caused Jonathon Safran Foer to give me a t-shirt so now I super duper love it.

    1. Oh my GOSH!! The Last Samurai is the first literary-ish novel I remember reading that wasn’t a classic, by recommendation from a family friend, when I was barely into high school. I read it twice in one week, and I have been trying to remember its title on and off for at least a year. I wanted to go back and reread it. Now I will. Thanks.

      (I also hated Sophie’s World. My mom stands behind it as her choice for our intro to philosophy, in high school, but it, as you said, muddied the waters of fiction.)

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