Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Book Review: Wintergirls

“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 were best friends, wintergirls frozen in matchstick bodies. But now Cassie is dead. Lia's mother is busy saving other people's lives. Her father is away on business. Her step-mother is clueless. And the voice inside Lia's head keeps telling her to remain in control, stay strong, lose more, weigh less. If she keeps on going this way—thin, thinner, thinnest—maybe she'll disappear altogether.

In her most emotionally wrenching, lyrically written book since the National Book Award finalist Speak, best-selling author Laurie Halse Anderson explores one girl's chilling descent into the all-consuming vortex of anorexia.

Wintergirlsby Laurie Halse Anderson has been on my shelf for years. I picked it up after falling in love with Speak. But it sat on my shelf for far too long. Needing a break from my regular preference of YA paranormal, I picked up this contemporary, also YA. And it was amazing! Brilliant! Superb! There just is not a word in existence to describe it.

Lia is our main character and narrator. She is also a wintergirl. After making a bet with her best friend, Cassie, to be the skinniest girl in school, she stops eating. She starves herself so she can make her goal weight. Except, her goal weight lowers as she reaches previous goals. Until she becomes so sick she lands herself in the hospital, and her family eventually has her put into a facility to help her. This novel starts off after she's been released and is (supposedly) doing well. She and Cassie are no longer friends, but that doesn't mean the news of Cassie's death doesn't bother her. While Lia was anorexic, Cassie was bulimic. Both eating disorders that do more harm than good.

Lia lives with her father, step-mother, and step-sister, Emma. Emma is a tween and looks up to Lia. This causes added strain, as Lia's lifestyle is not anything to look up to. Lia's mother is mostly gone from her life. A cardiologist that has more time for her patients than her family. Lia's life was far from perfect before she started starving herself. But living in a home where she isn't receiving the attention every teen girl deserves pushes her further.

There were a number of things I really liked about this book. This is the first novel I've read that dealt with eating disorders. And in case you don't know, eating disorders is huge in the US. Especially with teens and college students. You can see statistics here. So the first thing I loved was that it was such an amazing, impressive, powerful story that I think could really help people with eating disorders. I have friends, past and current, that have dealt with eating disorders. It's not just about being skinny. It's about how someone perceives themselves. For example, Lia comments on how people see her as being a skinny twig, while she sees a thick, ugly log. Which simply can't be true of someone over five feet and under a hundred pounds. I think Laurie did an amazing job of getting into Lia's head and being true to what girls like her are going through.

The second thing I loved was the story-telling. Laurie Halse Anderson's writing is always fantastic, but this one was definitely up there with Speak. The writing was very similar, whereas Catalyst and Twisted had a slightly different style. Lia narrates the book in first person. There are lines where her thoughts are crossed out and a second thought follows, noting the difference between the real thought/response and the thought/response she feels should be real. It was an interesting insight into Lia's thoughts. I had trouble putting this book down, and it was impossible not to be sucked in.

This is definitely one of the best contemporary books I've ever read. It has earned a spot on my list of "Books Everyone Should Read." So if you haven't read it, go grab a copy. You won't be disappointed.


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