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Review – Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson


by Laurie Halse Anderson
278 pages
Published March 19, 2009
Fiction, young adult

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

Buy Wintergirls from Powell’s | Buy Wintergirls from Amazon

Laurie Halse Anderson’s website

Follow Laurie Halse Anderson on Twitter

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| Tags: , , , , , 30 comments »

30 Responses to “Review – Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson”

  1. Meghan

    I definitely need to read this one. I’ve heard so many fantastic things about it, even if it’s a sad and difficult subject.


  2. debnance

    Speak was a powerful novel. It was so powerful that I want to read everything Anderson writes.


  3. Michelle

    I’ve read a bunch of good reviews of this one. I didn’t know about the strike-throughs though. I’m not sure if I’d like that in a book very much. I struggled quite a bit with an eating disorder in my teenage years and a lot of my food/image issues have lingered on. It is certainly a powerful subject and I’ll definately have to read this one.


  4. Beth F

    Great review. This also made a great audio.

    I agree that it’s such a strange disease because its mix of mental and physical and the struggle between mind and body. I agree that it’s a must read.

    I haven’t read any of Anderson’s other books, but I plan to.


  5. Elizabeth Spann Craig

    I love books that feature unreliable narrators. You never know which way is up!

    Mystery Writing is Murder


  6. Kathy

    I won this from Lenore, but haven’t had a chance to read it yet. I did read Speak recently, though, and thought it was fantastic, so I’m not surprised to see Wintergirls is too.


  7. Janssen

    I read this back in January and was just so drawn in by it. Someone I know has recently started struggling with anorexia and I keep thinking about this book and how warped your mind can get.


  8. nat @ book, line, and sinker

    i’ve seen this one all over the place–but haven’t picked it up yet. now, on your decree, i’ll run right out and get it! 🙂

    i love authentic YA that doesn’t glorify prada and private school. lol.


  9. Jenny

    I found this book so hard to read, and I didn’t finish it. Not because of the anorexia, although that was painful, but because of Lia’s guilt about Cassie’s death. I volunteer at a suicide hotline, and it makes me feel so responsible for suicidal people, particularly my friends. I have recurring nightmares where friends of mine decide they want to kill themselves and I can’t remember any of the things I’m supposed to say. I got about forty pages in before I had to stop.

    Um, but I think Laurie Halse Anderson is fantastic. I loved Speak, and I can’t wait for the sequel to Chains, which was amazing too.


  10. zibilee

    I really want to read both this book and Speak because I have heard that they are both really powerful and well written. I am planning on grabbing them very soon and will let you know what I think when I am done. Great review by the way!


  11. Jeanne

    I agree that this one is a must read. There are a lot of novels about anorexia that get preachy or inadvertently offer tips for would-be “anas,” but this one goes deeper. I didn’t find it unpleasant to read, like some novels that everyone says you “ought” to read, but it did make me cry.


  12. Staci

    Anderson has her pulse on the teens today and this book was fantastic. Not an overstatement when you deemed it “A MUST READ”


  13. Jo-Jo

    That’s a great review and this sounds like a very important book to read. I know this is a serious medical problem, but I just have such a problem trying to comprehend it. I should probably read this.


  14. Holley

    I loved this book too but I listened to it. I loved it DESPITE the terrible narrator! Now I want to read it in print so that hopefully I can purge that narrator out of my head!


  15. Sheila DeChantal

    You are right – you are on a roll for good reads! This one sounds wonderful too.


  16. l

    My daughter’s got this in her TBR pile. Maybe I just need to sneak it out and read it first!


  17. Sheri

    I just read/reviewed Speak. I really want to read this one!


  18. E.R. Hart

    LHA does have a funny way of getting into the teenage mind and flipping it over. When I read Speak my sheltered mind was blown to pieces by the suffering.


  19. S. Krishna

    I want to read this one, but I have a feeling it will be difficult. Thanks for the review.


  20. Serena (Savvy Verse & Wit)

    I know, I know…this book should no longer be sitting on my shelf waiting to be read, but there it sits. I have a few other promised reviews to get through, and I swear it will be next on the list. It probably doesn’t help that its summer and I am lazily reading these days, rather than reading at my normal pace.


  21. Alyce

    I’ve got this one on my shelf, and yet somehow I haven’t found the time to read it yet. There are just too many good books in this world, and I need to learn to read faster (or find a way to slow down time). 🙂 Glad to hear you enjoyed it so much!


  22. Kailana

    I am glad I read this. I read another one of her books a couple years ago and wasn’t a big fan, but I decided to give her another try and I will likely read more from her in the future.


  23. Lisa

    You linked to my review, so you already know I loved this one. A close friend of mine was bulimic in college and this made me sorta understand her. I was really impressed by how LHA could make Lia seem so logical when she was being so irrational.


  24. Melissa - Shhh I'm Reading

    I ordered this one a while ago based on all the great reviews, but still haven’t made time to read it yet.


  25. diane

    Looks like a tough subject, but a worthwhile read. Great review.


  26. Siobi

    I read this book after seeing you’d rated it really high. I was WOWed by the end, its a great book!


  27. Review – Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson « Regular Rumination

    […] reviewed by: Biblio File, Rhiannon Hart, Books on the Brain, Hey Lady Watcha Readin’?,  BookZombie, A Chair, A Fireplace, A Tea Cozy, Book Addiction, Stuff As Dreams Are Made On, […]

  28. Sydney

    Very well written book. It’s not suprising, since Laurie Halse Anderson wrote it. 🙂


  29. #82 – Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson (audio) « Let's eat, Grandpa! Let's eat Grandpa! (Punctuation saves lives.)

    […] Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin’?: “Laurie Halse Anderson has somehow made it into the head of teenage girls and seems to really understand anorexia.” […]

  30. Winter Girls by Laurie Halse Anderson | Book Journey

    […] Hey Lady!  Watcha Reading? […]

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