Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Publish Date: March 19th, 2009
Genre: YA, Contemporary, Psychology, Mental Illness
“Dead girl walking”, the boys say in the halls.
“Tell us your secret”, the girls whisper, one toilet to another.
I am that girl.
I am the space between my thighs, daylight shining through.
I am the bones they want, wired on a porcelain frame.
Lia and Cassie are best friends, wintergirls frozen in matchstick bodies, competitors in a deadly contest to see who can be the skinniest. But what comes after size zero and size double-zero? When Cassie succumbs to the demons within, Lia feels she is being haunted by her friend’s restless spirit.
In her most emotionally wrenching, lyrically written book since the multiple-award-winning Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson explores Lia’s descent into the powerful vortex of anorexia, and her painful path toward recovery.
Yay for another review for a book that came out a long time ago! Sorry guys but my tbr list is just really long so I’m trying to get through reading some of the older books.
Anyways, Wintergirls tells about the path of recovery of Lia, an anorexic girl trying to recover after the death of her ex-BFF Cassie. It’s a poignant, realistic read about anorexia and the repercussions it may have on loved ones.
Lia’s journey was heartbreaking. It made me hurt for her because it was heartbreaking that she believed these things about herself. The way that she strove to weigh seventy pounds at a height of 5’5″ was painful to read about. Every single thought she had about Cassie and her weight and family was just one reminder that she was toeing the boundary between life and death.
I love how she penned the name “Wintergirls” to describe girls that were suffering from anorexia and bulimia because of how tragically beautiful it is (not that eating disorders are beautiful). It’s kind of hard to explain my take on the name but I think it’s a way of saying that while the girls are constantly fighting their cold inner demons, they’re still beautiful no matter what. Winter is cold and harsh but it can still be beautiful y’know? I don’t mean to be offensive if it’s taken the wrong way.
The writing in this book was beautiful. I loved the different ways that Anderson chose to describe the moments of the book. I felt that they really illustrated the grief and helplessness of Lia. The metaphors and placement of them made scenes raw and even more moving than they would have been, had she used different words. While some may find it pretentious, I found that it was nice because she used it in moderation. There isn’t a two-page long description of a metaphor or philosophical idea but instead, they are sprinkled throughout.
“The unforgiving November wind blows me towards the building. Pointy snowflakes spiral down from the cake-frosting clouds overhead. The first snow. Magic. Everybody stops and looks up. The bus exhaust freezes, trapping all the noise in a gritty cloud. The doors to the school freeze, too.
We tilt back our heads and open wide.
The snow drifts into our zombie mouths crawling with grease and curses and tobacco flakes and cavities and boyfriend/girlfriend juice, the stain of lies. For one moment we are not failed tests and broken condoms and cheating on essays; we are crayons and lunch boxes and swinging so high our sneakers punch holes in the clouds. For one breath everything feels better.
Then it melts.”
“Ghosts are waiting in the shadows of the room, patient dull shimmers. The other can see them, too, I know it. We’re all afraid to talk about what stares at us from the dark.”
Yeah I picked quotes from the beginning in case anybody didn’t want any spoilers and counted those as spoilers? I dunno. But like I said a paragraph earlier, the writing in Wintergirls is beautiful. I liked how it contrasted with the dead, empty mood of Lia’s voice and the heavy topic of anorexia. Anderson did a really good job of making Lia sound like a girl obsessed with her weight that was spiraling deeper into anorexia. It was a highly accurate account of anorexia and there was clearly a high amount of research that went into it. The topics of bulimia and anorexia were both well applied to the novel. Everything from the mental effects to the physical deterioration and doctoral visits were described in full detail.
While the writing was great, I felt that the book lacked characterization of the protagonist, most likely due to the fact that Lia was ill that there was little room to expand on her personality before anorexia. This is completely okay with me because if anything, it brings the focus of the book onto the problems that Lia face. Even so, the secondary characters and Cassie, could have been elaborated further. I think I would have liked Elijah if he had actually been better characterized.
I didn’t really like the format of the writing. There were random parts in the book that reminded me of computer programming (Example from book: “youhavetoeat/I’mnothungry/eatsomething/stopforcing/listentome/leavemealone”). It might have been an internal struggle or her sub-conscious or something along those lines. But other similar parts make me think that it’s probably something else. Either way, these parts broke the flow of my concentration of the book and confused me more than it did contribute to my understanding. There were also strikethroughs and italicized parts, clearly meant to portray her sub-conscious. These weren’t as big a problem because you know. I actually understood them.
There was one character flaw of Lia that I didn’t really like. I’m not at all sure if this counts as a spoiler (highlight to read), but I really hated that the entire reason that the two girls began to lose weight was because Lia started a bet. I feel like in a real-world situation, it would take a little more than just a bet to cause people to develop eating disorders.
I’m really happy that I picked up Wintergirls. Even if it’s not going to become one of my favorite books, I don’t regret reading it at all. It’s opened my eyes even more to the minds of those that may be fighting these illnesses as I type these words. I’m definitely going to pick up her book Speak now.
Wintergirls may trigger some if read. Please be careful if you have recently suffered from similar issues. And if you have, you guys are strong and beautiful enough to not need to engage in these actions.