Friday, April 3, 2009

Book Review: Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

WintergirlsWintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson tackles the tough topics of eating disorders and cutting. It is the haunting story of Lia, who recently lost her best friend Cassie to an eating disorder. She and Cassie were wintergirls together. They were both going to be the thinnest, skinniest, most beautiful girls in school. Cassie dies alone in a motel room, leaving Lia to sort through her own issues and eating disorder.

Lia, hospitalized twice for her own battle with anorexia, doesn’t want to believe that anything is wrong. She thinks that everyone else has the problem, and she is fine. On a subconscious level though, she recognizes that her disorder is taking her down the same path as Cassie. She feels the cold, and the loss, but she cannot bring herself to eat. She doesn’t believe that eating will solve her problems. At one point Lia states, “I want to eat like a normal person eats, but I need to see my bones or I will hate myself even more and I might cut out my heart or take every pill that was ever made” (203).

Lia, clearly unbalanced by both the disease and her friend’s sudden death feels that she is being haunted by Cassie who climbs out of her coffin and refuses to stay in her grave. She knows that she doesn’t see the world the way others do, but she doesn’t understand why. “They yell at me because I can’t see what they see. Nobody can explain to me why my eyes work different than theirs. Nobody can make it stop” (197).

Anderson has written a gripping tale of pain and loss and a search for identity separate from her disease. Her language is poetic, drawing you into the story and not letting you leave until you reach the very last page.  Often disturbing, this book takes you into the mind of girl suffering from an eating disorder, a girl who injures herself for letting that one morsel past her lips, a girl whose inner voices tear at her self esteem, a wintergirl.

Cautions for sensitive readers: The main character does refer to herself as a stupid b***h throughout novel and cuts herself as punishment for not living up to her expectations. There isn’t any sex in the book.

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