Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

wintergirlsWintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
2009
278 Pages
5/5

“We held hands when we walked down the gingerbread path into the forest, blood dripping from our fingers. We danced with witches and kissed monsters. We turned us into wintergirls, and when she tried to leave, I pulled her back into the snow because I was afraid to be alone.” (p. 99)

Wintergirls tackles the issue of eating disorders, and it does so perfectly. Not beautifully (though the writing is beautiful), not in a pretty way, not in a candy-coated way, but perfectly. Lia is a young girl whose family has been torn apart. Her father left her mother, a somewhat distant, yet loving doctor, after having an affair with another woman. He married this woman, Jennifer, who actually turns out not to be too bad and brought a stepsister into Lia’s life, Emma, who Lia loves. On top of the adjustments required of this transition, Lia’s ex-best friend Cassie has just died…alone…after calling Lia 33 times begging for help but not getting it.

Lia and Cassie were best friends for years. They pledged to be skinny together, Cassie taking the route of bulimia, throwing up her food after binging, and Lia taking the route of annorexia, restricting what she ate. As they grew apart, these issues remained. We follow Lia in her 18th year as she fights to keep control of the only thing she seemingly has control over, her weight. Along with the restricting diet, Lia struggles through hallucinations and urges to cut. And it erupts into a nightmare that only she can understand, until she loses control of that herself.

I think this is Anderson’s best work yet. The book has an unconventional writing style. It’s told in seperate entries by Lia and we as the reader actually experience the thoughts as they go through her head. It’s not an easy read. It’s gut-wrenching at times and there’s a climactic moment that left me nearly speechless. It’s powerful. Very powerful. And I think it’s all very accurate.

I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this before, but at the psychiatric hospital I work at, we have an eating disorders unit. It’s world known and we have people come from all over the country and other countries for treatment. Eating disorders are a very real issue that quickly takes control over people. Not just women, we have males that come too. Research has shown that it stems not so much from a body image problem (though that’s certainly a HUGE issue), but it’s mostly an issue of control. When people experience traumatic events and seemingly lose control of their lives, they find that what goes in and out of their body is the only thing that they can control. Like Anderson’s characters, the majority of our clients also cut or use other self mutilative behaviors.

It’s sad to see some of these people. I think the worst case I’ve seen is a girl that was 5’7″ and 65 pounds. Yet she still wanted to lose weight. I hope that Anderson’s book is a tool to some of these people. That it helps them towards healing. That it gives them something to relate too and a voice to ask for help. This was truly a powerful read and my hat’s off to Laurie Halse Anderson for tackling this issue.

Other Views and Opinions:

Becky’s Book Reviews
Shooting Stars Mag
Presenting Lenore
A Patchwork of Books
The Well-Read Child
YAnnabe
Cheryl’s Book Nook
The Story Siren
Maw Books
Lauren’s Crammed Bookshelf
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23 Responses

  1. Great review. You should read Skin by Adrienne Maria Vrettos ๐Ÿ™‚ I think you’d like that one as well. I found it amazing ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Becky, I love you and your recommendations ๐Ÿ˜€ You always give me such good books to read…Skin just went right onto the wishlist…though it may be there already…didn’t you review it?

  3. Research has shown that it stems not so much from a body image problem (though thatโ€™s certainly a HUGE issue), but itโ€™s mostly an issue of control. When people experience traumatic events and seemingly lose control of their lives, they find that what goes in and out of their body is the only thing that they can control.

    I don’t think it can be put better than that, Chris. I had some problems with stuff in my first and second years of university, and the weight thing was one of the ways I felt I was still in control of my life. So yes, when you say it’s all about control, I couldn’t agree with you more.

    I have this book on my shelf… but must admit that I am a bit nervous to read it.

  4. Chris, I really enjoy getting your perspective on books like these. It brings a greater depth to them when I read them. Thanks!

  5. I agree so much with what you say about eating disorders being about control. A great book that deals with the control aspect rather than societal influence is Stick Figure – it’s a memoir/diary of an 11 year old girl and her adolescence in the 1970’s. I’m sure you must have heard of the memoir Wasted – but it’s also worth mentioning.

    Thanks Becky for recommending Skin, looks terrific, I’m excited to read it seeing that it gives a male outlook on eating disorders.

    Thanks for another awesome review Chris, I’m dying to read Wintergirls!

  6. Great review! I have not read anything by Anderson but I have always heard such great things…thanks!

  7. This book went right to my wish list after I read Becky’s review. And now after reading yours, I think it’s being bumped up to the “I can’t wait for the paperback to come out” list. Thanks Chris. This truly was a wonderful review.

  8. Great review! I haven’t read anything by this author, but it sure sounds like I should, now.

  9. GREAT REVIEW — and so many other good book suggestions in the comment section. I think your profession allows you to give us a unique point of view that adds value and insight.

    These books will probably hit very close to home – but I think it is time to take the plunge and read a few of them. Thank you for bringing them to my attention.

  10. I am on the waiting list for this at the library. The only book I have read by her is ‘Speak’ and it was back in the days when I was not much for young adult books…

  11. Court, I can understand that it’s nerve wracking to read a book like this if you’ve gone through some of it yourself, but I think it could be healing in a way too. We’re all afraid to face some of those skeletons that we’ve shoved back into the closet, but I think it does help to address it. One of the things I love about this book is that it’s opened people up to talking about their own experiences with issues like this! It’s much more prevalent than people think and it’s been great to see it talked about openly on blogs.

    Darla, So does that mean you’re going to read this one ๐Ÿ˜‰ I’d love to hear what you think!

    Joanne, You really need to read this one! It’s fantastic! And thanks for the book recs! I actually hadn’t read any of them.

    Obsessed Reader, She’s fantastic. I’ve only read one other book of hers, Speak, and it was quite powerful too. That one dealt with sexual abuse. She tackles some topics!

    Debi, Glad you enjoyed it! It’s a really great book…I think you should make an exception for this one and get the hardcover ๐Ÿ˜‰ Plus, the cover is so pretty! Guess what…Rich emailed me today!

    Kim, She’s fantastic! And this would be a fantastic starting point!

    Molly, Ditto the comment that I wrote to Courtney. It’s a tough read, but one that’s cathartic I think! I really think you’d enjoy this one. I’ll be looking forward to seeing if you read it!

    Kailana, I really loved Speak, but I have to admit that this one blew Speak out of the water. It’s in a league of it’s own. Hope it comes in soon for you! I finally had to buy this one. I was like 4th in line at the library and with young adult books, the teenagers almost always keep them out past their due date :p Or they get lost…

  12. This sounds like such a powerful book. The control thing: I had a friend with an eating disorder in highschool and she’d pretty much acknowledge that herself. Sadly, being aware of it was not in itself enough to make her quit :/ Anyway…I’ll read this for sure.

  13. I would complain at you for adding books to my wishlist, but it turns out this one is already on said list. (Instead, I’ve bumped it up on how badly I want it.)

    It sounds very sad, but also very powerful.

  14. Well, this book sounds right up your alley! (love the cover)
    But I think I’ll skip this one… I’ve got enough problems right now *sigh*

    but any insight to problems only helps in the end.

  15. Yeah, I definitely think this one sounds hardback worthy. And that cover is beautiful.

    Hmmm…Rich didn’t tell you what a dork I am in real life or anything, did he? Oh wait–I’m a dork on-line, too, so that really wouldn’t be big news, would it? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  16. first off, I luv the new blog look!
    and secondly, this sounds like a great book, I need to add it to my TBR.

  17. This one sounds really good, and I’ll be adding it to my TBR too! I’m so impressed with your sidebar too. The song widget is really cool, and I’m sitting here listening to Placebo right now. If only I could, I’d make a deal with God to meet Brian Molko some day!

  18. Nymeth, That is sad ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Sometimes it actually is enough just to recognize it, but more times than not, it isn’t. I had a friend in high school too that had an eating disorder…a guy. He would go to the bathroom every day to throw up his lunch and he was skinny as can be. I didn’t understand it at the time, and I wish I understood it better then.

    Shanra, Good :p I’m glad it’s already on your wishlist!! I think you’d like this one quite a bit!

    Deslily, Yeah, in a way this book ends up being uplifting, but overall, it’s not a very happy read. I’d skip it too right now if I were you. Isn’t that cover great though? Looks like it would be a fantasy book with the title!

    Debi, Oh yeah, he did! LOL…just kidding :p He didn’t say that. He’s a nice guy! And I’m sure you’re not a dork ๐Ÿ˜‰ But if you were I’d love you all the more for it, lol.

    Bookworm, thanks! Glad you like the new look! And I certainly recommend this one for the TBR pile.

    Chartroose, I’d love to meet him too! I saw Placebo at the House of Blues not long ago and we were about two people away from the stage. One of the best shows I’ve ever seen. Didn’t get to meet him though. Really fantastic…The Raveonettes opened up for them…have you heard them? If not, go download “Love in a Trashcan” Love that song!

  19. Excellent review Chris. This book is still in my TBR pile and I’m planning on reading it Saturday. Can’t wait!!

  20. Great review Chris. I have read a couple of books by LHA and thought they were both fantastic. I definitely want to read this one soon.

  21. I thought this book was fantastic, too. It was very tough going, but I couldn’t put it down. I also got completely caught up in Lia’s character. I kept being annoyed and upset with her, but then it finally dawned on me that she wasn’t being a jerk, she was mentally ill. Laurie Halse Anderson’s writing was so good, I was totally fooled. Thanks for a great review. It’s always interesting to here your professional point of view, too.

  22. I really enjoyed Speak and will definitely be reading more including this one. I read another review of this somewhere (sorry I can’t remember who wrote it) and between you both I am sold.

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