Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson is a book you MUST READ. I know I’ve been saying this a lot lately, but I’ve just been lucky with the books I’ve been choosing, so it’s not like I’ve lowered my standards. Promise.
Wintergirls is about Lia, a 17-year-old girl who cuts herself and is anorexic — still anorexic even though her family thinks she’s recovering after recently being hospitalized. She’s struggling because her best friend, Cassie, was recently found dead in a hotel room. Cassie was alone, but what only Lia knows is Cassie had called her 33 times before her death, begging Lia to talk to her. Lia is wracked with guilt and does what she does best: continues to lose weight and keep control over at least one thing in her life, her weight.
When I was in high school, there was a girl who was anorexic, though we didn’t know that at the time. The heartbreaking part is that she was valedictorian and the one who could have gone farther than any of us. She was the one whose papers were held up in English class as brilliant writing, excellent analyzing. Last time I heard, she was doing better, but I’m sure this is something she’ll struggle with for the rest of her life.
The part that I find so frustrating about anorexia is that as much as the body wants to live, as hard as our bodies fight to stay alive, when a person has anorexia, there comes a point in the disease that something changes in the brain and the person really sees and believes that they are fat, that losing just a little more weight will make them happy. Essentially, their brain kills them, and to me, that is the most tragic part of the disease. That as hard as our bodies fight to live, when someone is anorexic, the brain changes so the person will starve themselves to death.
Laurie Halse Anderson has somehow made it into the head of teenage girls and seems to really understand anorexia. She utilizes strike throughs so the reader can see how Lia’s brain is overriding what her body needs:
He tosses the toilet paper roll on the pillows, flips opens the box, and takes out a slice of pizza. “New Jersey.” He takes a bite and the cheese strings like a suspension bridge from his mouth to his hand. “Want some?”
One bite, please, and then another and another, crust and cheese sausage sauce another and another empty is strong and invincible. “I already ate.”
Lia has gotten to such a low weight that she’s hallucinating. She sees her friend Cassie encouraging her to stay strong in not eating, because soon they will be together again.
Since Lia’s an unreliable narrator with her hallucinations and suppressing her true feelings, it’s up to the reader to figure out reality. I think this is fantastic for teenagers, because the strike throughs and hallucinations make it obvious how out of whack Lia’s thinking is.
So let’s go through this one more time: You MUST READ Wintergirls. The story is heartbreaking and wonderful, all at the same time. The writing is fantastic and top notch. This is one of those books that transcends age and gender and will speak to whoever picks it up.
Rating: 94 out of 100