Stella Bellarosa: Tales of an Aspiring Teenage Superhero, Julie Krantz
Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)
It’s the late 1960s, New York City, with its hipsters and beats and a trashy Times Square full of peep shows, perverts, and pickpockets – and two run-away thirteen-year-old girls. Julie Krantz’s novel takes us from the crowded streets of Little Italy and Chinatown, with stops at the luxurious Museum of Modern Art and Rockefeller Center, and ends at the holding pen of a Times Square police station. Heroines Stella and Pin Pin ((whom we later discover probably has no green card) are on the lam from their Catholic school, all because Pin Pin needed money to buy her baby sister a birthday present. At a breathless, breakneck pace, Stella tells the story of her day on the town, reminiscent of Louis Malle’s Zazie Dans le Métro and, of course, Stanley Donen’s On The Town, including madcap chases, scenes of beauty (such as the girls coming upon Picasso’s Guernica at MoMA), hair-raising subway rides, and run-ins with some of the City’s lower elements.
Stella’s gross-out humor and hyperbolic descriptions of her physical and mental states will appeal to tween readers. Stella’s embarrassment about her delicate digestive system and fear of her parents’ anger will make sense to anyone entering their teen years. Her loyalty to her best friend, Pin Pin, is endearing, and her shining moments come when she recognizes Pin’s need to be fully American. While gazing at Guernica, Stella realizes Pin “wanted somebody to open the door and let her in.”
The story is weakened by several confusing anachronisms. Krantz carefully sets the scene five years after JFK’s assassination, yet more modern terms (such as ADD and yuppie) keep intruding. The Times Square TKTS booth, cell phones, Calvin Klein ads, and Fred Astaire’s death all appear here, years ahead of their time. Also, Stella’s wiseacre exaggerating voice made it difficult to believe her assessment of every situation.
I don’t recommend this for adults, but tween readers will enjoy the anarchy of Stella’s and Pin Pin’s trip around Manhattan.
Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for an independent, fair, and honest review.