Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli ****
Stargirl was one of the very first books which I wrote in my original ‘to-read’ notebook when I purchased it back in 2007, and I have only just got around to purchasing and reading it. I was so excited to begin it after April telling me that the snippets of the story which she had read were beautiful. Whilst reading, the novel reminded me of Looking for Alaska by John Green in terms of its school-based storyline and quirky characters, and The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides with regard to its narrative style. (Side note: If you have enjoyed either or both of these novels, then go and locate yourself a copy of Stargirl as soon as you can, and don’t stop reading until you have finished it.)
The characters in Stargirl are all incredibly well developed, and I loved how different they were. Spinelli makes it easy to identify those who are only mentioned once or twice in the narrative due to the original details which he includes. The characterisation of Stargirl particularly was marvellous. I loved how quirky and unexpected she was, and the arc of her character development was well constructed and believable, if very sad. This is a novel which I will certainly be reading again.
Bluestockings: The Remarkable Story of the First Women to Fight for an Education by Jane Robinson ****
I find non-fiction books like this fascinating, particularly when they explore education and the suffrage movement in detail (which, incidentally, Bluestockings does). I loved the way in which Robinson set out the history of the female fight for education, and admired the fact that she based the book only within England and Scotland. Her use of sources – quotes and case studies – to back up particular facts or statements worked very well, and I was pleased that she did not rely too heavily upon them, as some historical books which I have read in the past have done. Without the women outlined in Bluestockings, I doubt that I would be as well educated as I am now. It is thanks to them, really, that all children and young people have the same educational rights and opportunities to study today, regardless of their sex or upbringing. I am so very grateful for both their determination and their bravery. A great and highly recommended book.
Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer ***
I had not planned to read another non-fiction book directly after finishing the marvellous Bluestockings, but it was the first suggestion which I picked out of my handy to-read jar, so I decided to go with it regardless. The story which Krakauer looks at – that of a young man named Chris McCandless, who donated his savings to Oxfam and then disappeared into the Alaskan wilderness, his whereabouts relatively unknown until his body was found some time afterwards – is interesting, and as I don’t really read true crime books often, it has made me want to explore the genre further. Despite this, Into the Wild did feel a little lacking in its execution. Krakauer’s narrative style was a touch dull at times, and I think a little more passion in or enthusiasm for his subject would have made the world of difference. Although I was keen to learn about McCandless’ story, the writing style meant that I rather struggled to get into it.