Review: Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

35621937.JPGWintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson explores the darkest recesses of the troubled mind of a teenage anorexic coping with the death of her best friend.  For a mother of young girls, this was a most terrifying reading experience.

Lia and Cassie were best friends growing up, making a dangerous pact to stay thin and always support each other’s habits.  But after 9 years of best friendship, they stop talking.

When Lia’s parents put her in a treatment center for eating disorders, Cassie’s parents warn her to stay away from Lia, who they perceive as a bad influence.  But what Cassie’s parents don’t know is that Cassie is a bulimic and in very serious trouble physically.  At the time of her death, Lia and Cassie hadn’t spoken in several months, but for some reason Cassie tried to call her 33 times the night she died.

Lia is haunted by obsessive thoughts of her friend, and visual and auditory hallucinations of Cassie encouraging her to stay strong, eat less, and join her.  She can even smell Cassie’s presence.

Obsessive thoughts rule Lia’s existence.  Thoughts of Cassie and thoughts of food.  Everything has a number.  Apple (75) half a bagel (185) 10 raisins (16).  The book is written in a stream of consciousness style that is compelling and painful.  I felt like I was witnessing this girl, this character I cared about, slowly killing herself, and I couldn’t do anything about it.

Her family is desperate to help her but Lia is critical of all their efforts.  Lia believes they are clueless and that they don’t care, but it’s clear they love her and will do anything to make her well.

A starving girl does not make the most reliable narrator.  She is deeply disturbed and in so much pain.  She calls herself names and has such horrible self-talk that it was very hard (as a mom) to read:

::stupid/ugly/stupid/bitch/stupid/fat/

stupid/baby/stupid/loser/stupid/lost::

Her brain is at war with itself throughout the book as she tries to convince herself that she doesn’t need food.  Anderson shows the reader how conflicted she is by using a strike-out technique with great effectiveness.  Here’s an example:

My traitor fingers want that fudge.  No, they don’t.  They want a seven layer bar and some weird muffins and those pretzels.  No, they do not.  They want to squish the marshmallows and stuff them into my mouth.  They will not.”

This is a fabulously written, intensely compelling book.  I love how it doesn’t solve the problem or give any easy answers, because there aren’t any.  It’s such a complicated issue.  Laurie Halse Anderson is an amazing YA novelist who takes on the most difficult subjects.  I’d highly recommend Wintergirls to anyone looking for a book to take over their lives for a couple of days, but most especially to those who deal with teenage girls on a regular basis or who want a better understanding of eating disorders.

This one is excellent.

UPDATE:  I forgot about the ‘full disclosure’ issue on blogs.. about where books come from.  I bought this book on vacation in August when I ran out of books to read. I read Speak by LHA last spring and loved it, and had seen Wintergirls reviewed positively on a number of blogs.  So that’s how I came to own this book, if anyone cares about that stuff!

28 Responses

  1. That sounds really gut wrenching but worth reading. Is she the same author who wrote Speak? I’d like to read that one also. I may have to go out and pick them both up if that is the case.

    • Lyndsey, Send me your address and I’ll pop Wintergirls in the mail to you.

      Yes, LHA is the same author who wrote Speak. I lent that one out and it’s making the rounds in my book club.

  2. I bought this book at the same time I bought Speak. I read the latter book and absolutely loved it. However, I was so emotionally drained after reading that one, that I decided to save Wintergirls for another time. I think I might read it during the 24 hour read-a-thon.

    Great review!

  3. Wow. This sounds intense. I just read The Perks of Being a Wallflower w/ my book club and that’s another young adult book that can make you downright worried about your kids being teenagers. An excellent read though. I’ll have to keep my eye out for this one. thanks.

  4. My daughter has this in her tbr pile. I might just have to help myself to it.

  5. I’ve read Speak, too, so I’m really anxious to read this one. Great review.

  6. I would read this, but to be honest I wouldn’t want my daughters reading this. As much as I dislike book censorship, with all the emphasis on weight and appearance for young girls, I ‘d be afraid that they might learn too many “tricks” from this book or worry too much about their weight. So many girls are obsessed with these issues, even thin girls. I think parents need to protect their children and watch what they read to an extent.

  7. I’ve had my eye on this book for a while. It sounds really intense.

  8. I’ve heard many good things about this book, and the author. I’ve not dabbled yet, because I think I’m just a little nervous. I’m a mom of a tween aged girl, so that is why. I know I need to face this stuff head on and learn about it, to maybe perhaps prevent it from happening, or understand the mind of a girl this age (it has been awhile!). That is an excellent review. I will take it to heart.

  9. I really need to review this! I read it ages ago!

  10. as you know, I loved this one too. scarily awesomely good. great review, lisa.

  11. I have been wanting to read this one for awhile now and am glad to read another positive review of this book. I think my daughter has read Speak, but I am not sure. I will have to ask her. Great review, it sounds like this book really touched something in you.

  12. I just finished reading Speak by the same author a few days ago. She is a very powerful author with much to say for parents of teenagers and teenagers themselves.

  13. This sounds excellent. Not sure I’m up for an emotional read at this time, but will keep it in the back of my mind. Great review

  14. Great review. I’ve added Wintergirls and Speak to my raved-about reads list and hope to get to both of them soon.

  15. Whoa, this one sounds so intense. I love coming of age novels AND stream of consciousness narration styles. I might have to take a deep breath and jump into this one.

  16. I agree it’s hard to read as a mom. But what if every parent read a book like this? Parents need to know what some kids are dealing with.

    Great review of an excellent book.

  17. This sounds like a very intense book, sad and troubling. But it also sounds very well written.

    You wrote a terrific review, thank you :o)

  18. I forget the “full disclosure” thing, too. I’ve read three books by this author and enjoyed them all – Speak, Twisted and Fever (with a date – can’t remember the date). They were all excellent. I’ll get around to reading this one, eventually. Great review!

  19. Great review, Lisa. I suppose that full disclosure thing is appropriate but I forget. Then again, I’ve only accepted 2 books “for” review – I just can’t take the silly pressure of somebody being too interested in my thoughts so I buy or mooch most ALL my books.

  20. And, just wanted to give you a heads up that I’ve given you a little bloggy award. Happy Sunday!🙂

    http://bookingitbusstyle.blogspot.com/2009/09/word-up.html

  21. Great review! I listened to the audio version of the book this summer and thought it was very intense and excellently written. It’s a book that really makes you think.

  22. […] Read my review of Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson HERE. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Review: Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s […]

  23. […] reviewed by: Biblio File, Rhiannon Hart, Books on the Brain, Hey Lady Watcha Readin’?,  BookZombie, A Chair, A Fireplace, A Tea Cozy, Book Addiction, […]

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