Monday, December 10, 2012

Book Review: Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

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Title: Wintergirls
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Hardcover: 278 pages
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)
“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 are best friends, wintergirls frozen in matchstick bodies, competitors in a deadly contest to see who can be the skinniest. But what comes after size zero and size double-zero? When Cassie succumbs to the demons within, Lia feels she is being haunted by her friend’s restless spirit. 
In her most emotionally wrenching, lyrically written book since the multiple-award-winning Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson explores Lia’s descent into the powerful vortex of anorexia, and her painful path toward recovery.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

Lia has her share of problems. Her parents are divorced, her mom is a workaholic and her dad has remarried. To top it off, she has issues with her image and her family situation does not make that any better. This book starts off when she learns that Cassie, her estranged best friend who suffered from bulimia, has died. Though she tries not to show it, this is very upsetting to Lia. Lia tries to find out the circumstances of Cassie's death while trying to hide her own relapse of anorexia from her family.

I really liked the way this was written. Though this story is told from Lia's perspective, the writing is structured so that we are able to see both how she wants to feel and how she really feels. This is done through something as simple as having Lia's true feelings crossed out like this, followed with how Lia is trying to force herself to feel. Though a simple technique, I think it works really well and is unique enough to be kind of risky. But the risk paid off because due to this, I was able to get a better sense of who Lia is and what problems she's going through.

I also loved the way Anderson portrays the characters. Wintergirls shows that one person's problem creates problems for the whole family. Lia has a fantastic relationship with her younger sister, Emma. The kind, caring way she takes care of Emma helped me to connect with her and see that she had her good moments while she was suffering from anorexia. Adding in Cassie's ghost and Lia's search for answers was a definite plus; it gave the book a horror/gothic/mystery sort of feel while still dealing with real-world issues.

Anderson also has the amazing ability to write about dark subjects without making them overpoweringly painful to read. Wintergirls is convincing and doesn't gloss over the negative effects of eating disorders, but there are still some happy moments in there -- moments when you almost forget that Lia is anorexic. These usually happen when she's interacting with someone she cares about, such as Emma. This brings an element of levity to the novel that balances nicely with all the issues that are going on. I appreciated that.

Anorexia is not a topic to joke about -- many individuals and families struggle with this every day. I think this is a good read and would recommend it. I can definitely see this being studied in schools and think that this topic should be studied a little bit more.