Friday, February 6, 2015

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

Publication Date:  March 19, 2009
Publisher:  Viking Juvenile
Series:  Stand Alone
Pages:  278
Genre:  Contemporary
Synopsis:  “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.

Review:  Wintergirls is a haunting story that discusses, in stunning detail, what it is like to be afflicted by an eating disorder, and how this can affect someone's life.  

This book doesn't sugar coat anything.  It shows in all its horrifying, heartbreaking glory what anorexia and bulimia are really like.  It offers and in-depth view, a glimpse into the thoughts that run through the heads of people suffering from the disease.  As the book unfolds, you really begin to see just how incapacitating these complex mental disorders are.  A complaint I have seen is that Laurie Halse Anderson did not offer an explanation as to what caused Lia to become the way she is.  For me, this isn't an issue.  It makes it seem more realistic for the story to show that sometimes there doesn't have to be a reason for mental disorders, that there doesn't have to be a tragedy or accident that made the disorder come about. Frankly, if there had been some disaster that caused Lia to become anorexic, her story would have become less unique.

Laurie Halse Anderson is a master at showing, not telling when she writes.  She makes you understand the darkest corners of the mind of Lia, how she sees herself and her struggles with her illness. Instead of telling you that Lia thinks she is fat, she shows you how Lia imagines her body to look like.  While it is true that the numerous metaphors and poetic writing style can become a little tiresome, it never loses its effect or beauty.  The plot is driven and keeps your attention throughout the whole novel.  I really like how it adds in the story of Cassie, Lia's oldest friend, who dies because of her eating disorder, and Lia's perceived culpability in her death. Cassie's death is a major part of Lia realizing just how dangerous her disorder is and how far she is willing to go.  It helps her see how that what she is doing is not simply a game anymore, and that she wants to get better.  

As far as the characters go, it seems as if Lia's eating disorder defines her.  You are not really told what she likes or dislikes, what her hobbies are, what she loves.  She is pretty passive throughout the novel, and while I understand that anorexia is a huge issue to tackle, I just wish Lia were fleshed out more as a person.  Her mother seems to be the only other character with much dimension to her.  Everyone else is kept fairly stereotypical.  The book focuses so much on Lia that you are trapped within her mind and never get to see what her life and the other people around her are like.  

One aspect of Wintergirls I enjoy is Lia's visions of Cassie.  It adds a darker element to this already tragic story, though it can be a touch too much of supernatural that doesn't quite belong.   

In its entirety, Wintergirls is a great read, one I would reccommend anyone read.  

4 Keys

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