Wintergirls

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Wintergirls
Age Range
14+
Release Date
March 19, 2009
ISBN
067001110X
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“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.

Editor reviews

2 reviews
Warning: Will Result in Painful Feels
Overall rating
 
4.0
Plot
 
3.0
Characters
 
4.0
Writing Style
 
5.0
What I Liked:
One of the other books that gave me this feeling was another Laurie Halse Anderson novel, Speak. Both of these books ripped me up inside. They hurt almost physically. They’re visceral and unpleasant and eye-opening. In a lot of ways, I hated reading them. At the same time, though, I’m so impressed by the strength of the sensations that Anderson can elicit in her fiction and I know that this intense discomfort I’m feeling is something she’s created and that she’s teaching me and expanding my understanding.

Laurie Halse Anderson is, without a doubt, one of my favorite authors, even if I did somewhat hate the experience of reading two of her books. I’ve read four and each one had such a unique narrative voice. Some authors have essentially the same sort of characters over and over, but, for all that Anderson’s MCs (at least in the ones I’ve read) are white females, they’re quite disparate. The first person perspective of Lia in Wintergirls particularly stands out. The narrative is frenetic, jumbled, nonsensical, messy, and rambling. It takes some time to adjust to, but, once you get there, the writing is such a beautiful chaos of pain, loneliness and little bits of hope.

Going into it, I thought Wintergirls was a novel about a girl with an eating disorder, which it is, but it’s also much more than that. Lia’s mental problems extend further than anorexia, which is a symptom of larger issues. What’s fascinating and intensely painful is the odd mixture of self-awareness and complete lack of self-knowledge Lia’s mental processes exhibit. She knows that she’s in a danger zone weight wise, that she’s hurt people before because of her poor nutrition, and that she craves food, but at the same time she still truly believes herself to be disgusting and fat even as she stares at her protruding ribs. Being in her head is, I repeat, intensely unsettling and eye-opening.

At the novel’s start, Lia has been released from treatment for the second time. She’s living with her father and stepmother, having finally escaped from her Mom Dr. Marrigan. Immediately her goal is to slough off all the weight she was forced to gain in order to get out of the hospital. The death of her best friend, Cassie, accelerates this unhealthy backslide. Cassie and Lia both had eating disorders and encouraged one another in their behavior. Honestly, I’m not really sure what to make of the relationship between Cassie and Lia, except the way that friendship can actually be really unhealthy for you no matter how much you love each other, much like a romantic relationship can be.

Because Laurie Halse Anderson doesn’t write garden variety YA, Wintergirls isn’t about romance. Lia isn’t fixed by the love of a hot boy. The only one who can fix Lia is Lia, even though her parents and her psychologist are trying to help her as much as they can. Though I feel like the parents were a bit unobservant, they were trying, which automatically qualifies them for a good parenting award in YA fiction.

The Final Verdict:
I don’t even know what to say about this book, other than that it hurt my brain and that you should read it, if only to admire how talented Laurie Halse Anderson is. This goes on the list of books I’ll need to reread at least once and maybe multiple times to really fathom.
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Starving Doesn't Work
Overall rating
 
5.0
Plot
 
5.0
Characters
 
0.0
Writing Style
 
0.0

Laurie Halse Anderson has a legion of fans and Wintergirls wont disappoint any of them.  It is a stark portrayal of teenagers coping (or not) with eating disorders.  You cant be too squeamish to read Wintergirls, but it is so worth it.


The setting:  Lia is sixteen.  Her parents are divorced.  Her teacher father has remarried.  Her heart surgeon mother has not.  She has been in rehab twice.  After the second incarceration, Lia moved in with her dad.  She adores her younger step-sister, Emma.  Her parents dont understand her at all.  Lias childhood best friend, Cassie, was just found dead, alone in a sleazy motel room.  Cassie had called Lia 33 times the night she died and Lia didnt answer the phone.


In Wintergirls, you count calories with Lia.  You step on the scale with her and obsess that in rehab you were forced to eat so now you weigh 105 when you really want to weigh 95 or 90 or really 85.  You cope with never being warm enough because you dont have enough body fat and you are always tired, despite the fact that you sleep constantly.  You live the nightmares that Lia has about Cassie and the arguments she has with her parents.  You learn how she fools her parents into thinking that shes eating.  It is as real a depiction of eating disorders as can be written. 


As she did in Speak, Anderson has taken a difficult and important subject and put it in perspective.  While it doesnt answer the question of why some people develop eating disorders and some dont, it provides an understandable setting in which to get a better handle on these disorders.  Teens will relate to Lia and Cassie, the hardships they suffer in school and the tension that develops between teens and parents.  And parents can relate to the helplessness they feel in trying to understand the whys and the treatment of eating disorders.  And everyone will understand the devastation that occurs to the family members of someone with an eating disorder.


Almost everyone knows someone with an eating disorder, whether they are cognizant of the fact or not.  I cannot think of a person, adult or teen, who will not be affected in some way by reading Wintergirls.  Definitely in my top 5 books of 2009, Wintergirls is a must read

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4.1
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4.4(17)
Characters
 
4.0(3)
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Thoughtful, yet lacking in emtotion
Overall rating
 
3.0
Plot
 
3.0
Characters
 
3.0
Writing Style
 
3.0
“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.” — Wintergirls

Outwardly, Wintergirls had everything that would recommend itself to me: hard-hitting “issues” book, the promise of fantastic prose, an author who’s something of an institution in the realistic fiction world. What could go wrong? I thought.
One should never underestimate the great importance of a well-rounded, complex protagonist. Because, sadly, that’s the one thing Laurie Halse Anderson forgot to include in this book, and it made a huge difference.

Lia is eighteen and living with her dad and his second wife, struggling to get skinny again after a series of hospital stays. She finds out her former best friend Cassie is dead because of her bulimia, and it’s more or less Lia’s fault. Obviously, Lia’s anorexia becomes a whole other animal, and there’s a lot of angsting to be done. Also some delusions and hallucinations (which I assume are caused by Lia’s malnourished state).

In the end, Lia faces her demons, almost dies, and starts down the road to recovery in a somewhat cheesy, cliche manner. Like any genre, realistic fiction has its patterns and go-tos, and I didn’t mind this book’s plot much at all. No, it didn’t wow me, but I would have enjoyed it had there not been the two-dimentionality of Lia’s character.

I felt that Lia was just an symbol of an anorexic girl. She embodied an idea, but she wasn’t a person of her own merit. Whatever growth she experienced seemed forced, like Anderson knew Lia was going to have to change her outlook on life, even if Lia didn’t seem to want to. It lacked genuineness. Lia was not an authentic character for me.

However, Laure Halse Anderson’s prose was to die for. Wintergirls is almost worth reading just for the text. This author expresses herself wonderfully, fluidly. I’m a huge fan of authors who stray outside “proper grammar”and play with the language a bit. Breaking the rules is a-okay with me, just so long as the author knows what s/he’s doing.

Altogether, I must admit to being underwhelmed by Wintergirls. Laurie Halse Anderson is something of a celebrity in the YA world, and this book is, aside from Speak, her most well-liked. It wasn’t bad book by any means—I actually thought it was quite good and I enjoyed it a lot. But Wintergirls definitely didn’t live up to the hype that accompanies it.
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good book
Overall rating
 
4.3
Plot
 
5.0
Characters
 
4.0
Writing Style
 
4.0
great book....taught me things i didn't know about anorexic and bulimic people
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Not Dead or Alive
Overall rating
 
5.0
Plot
 
5.0
Characters
 
5.0
Writing Style
 
5.0
Wintergirls was a very good and meaningful book. It was hard to put down. There was a lot of meaning in Wintergirls, and it changed the way I look at things. It changed the way I look at “being thin”, and it also changed the way I see media; all of the super thin people who make other people feel like they’re fat, the way Lia felt. And, since it changed my perspective, I could understand Lia’s situation even better. This is a great book, and I think that people would benefit from reading it.
Good Points
The title represents how the girls in this story are not dead, but they are not alive either, like the trees and grass in winter.
I liked how the author showed how Lia felt angry at herself when she ate food, and how she couldn’t even let herself think about eating. Lia would always want to be thinner, and she would never feel thin enough until she weighed nothing. I could see how anorexic and bulimic people felt.
I could understand how Lia felt in the book. I could see how it felt to be anorexic. The writing was powerful. I could feel the fear and guilt that Lia felt. I could also understand Lia’s perspective; how her life had affected her, and how she felt like she had to be thin.
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Rare and Mezmorizing: 5 STARS
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5.0
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5.0
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0.0
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0.0
Reader reviewed by Bwyatt

A rare and mesmorizing glimpse into the life and mind of an anorexic teenager, WINTERGIRLS is a story that parents and teens alike should read and discuss together. It meticulously chronicles the effects of an eating disorder on the relationships, body, and mind of Lia, the main character. Anderson does an amazing job of revealing the mysterious aspects of eating disorders that people outside of the disease have a difficult time comprehending and understanding. I sympathized with Lia and it truely broke my heart to watch the horendous effects of the anorexia.
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Wintergirls will give you chills
Overall rating
 
5.0
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5.0
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0.0
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0.0
Reader reviewed by mamabrat

     Lia's in big trouble and nobody realizes it.  Her mom demands she that she eats and get better but is too busy saving other peoples lives to find out why Lia doesn't. Her father tries to pretend that everything is fine and will go away with enough time. Her stepmom wants to help but doesn't know how and is afraid of doing the wrong thing. Lia feels she's in control. The pain and the hunger will make her stronger and she won't quit until she hits her goal, even when she realizes that she will never hit that goal until the scale reads 00. Will Lia open her eyes before she closes them forever?

   Wintergirls gives the reader a realistic look into the world of someone suffering from an eating disorder. It also gives parents an idea just how far someone with an eating disorder will go to read it. Wintergirls is a must read for teens and parents alike. The truth of it will leave you cold
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Amazing
Overall rating
 
4.0
Plot
 
4.0
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0.0
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0.0
Reader reviewed by Carly

This was a great book! It displayed a great message about eating disorders and what these girls go through. All they want to do is be skinny enough that maybe they will one day disappear. The writing and plot were amazing! I would recommend this book. 
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Food is Life
Overall rating
 
5.0
Plot
 
5.0
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0.0
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0.0
Reader reviewed by Sarima89



Laurie
Halse Anderson invites to a journey trough the mind of a girl with a hopeless
story.

She perfectly captures the disturbed mind of a girl with an eating
disorder, with destructive thoughts and habits that are killing her in the
inside.

Is a very powerful story, masterfully written that will make you think,
a lot, and will help you understand what is beyond a skinny body.





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The Chilling Reality of Eating Disorders
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5.0
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5.0
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0.0
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Reader reviewed by Mari

Ive been a fan of Laurie Halse Andersons ever since I read Speak. Her novels are well-researched, and she has the rare talent of altering her writing style to suit the topic. Wintergirls did not disappoint.

Written in a stream-of-consciousness writing style that takes the reader from the realistic to the bizarre, Wintergirls is the haunting story of Lia, an 18-year-old high school student with a severe eating disorder and an obsession with cutting herself. She has already endured inpatient treatment twice when she learns that her estranged best friend, Cassie, has died alone in a motel room. Cassie, too, struggled with an eating disorder. The night of her death, Cassie left 33 messages on Lias cell phone, all of which Lia ignored. The guilt and fear of the news plunges Lia back into the clutches of her anorexia, and Anderson adeptly chronicles the physical, psychological, and emotional toll that the disorder takes on Lia and her family. This book is a must read for anyone who interacts with young adults.

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Sad and true.
Overall rating
 
5.0
Plot
 
5.0
Characters
 
0.0
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0.0
Reader reviewed by Suzanne

This book is about a girl who has anorexia. It all started when a few years back her, and her best friend made a bet. A bet to see who could be the skinniest. Now after years of  being bulemic, her friend has died and now she has to figure out how to come to terms with her disease, and try to live a normal life again.
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Brutally Honest
Overall rating
 
5.0
Plot
 
5.0
Characters
 
0.0
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0.0
Reader reviewed by Allison

Lia and Cassie were friends, best friends, in a deadly competition to see who could be skinnier, resist temptation, stay strong and in control. They are Wintergirls, so far gone that they hover between life and death, just surviving day to day. Only now Cassie is dead. And Lia, haunted by her death, is succumbing to the voice in her head telling her to stay strong, lose more, weigh less... no matter what the cost.

Wow. Sure, I've read books about eating disorders before, but never like this. Lia's first-person narrative doesn't hold back any details as she describes struggling with her demons day after day, counting the calories of each and every thing she puts in her mouth, feeling disgusted by her size, and being proud as she becomes one pound smaller, one pound closer. The descriptions in this novel are really like nothing I've read before. They are poetic, they are lyrical, and they draw you into an entirely different world.

All of the relationships and character development were really well-done. Whether it was Lia's somewhat distant mother, her bond with her half-sister Emma, or even the support system relationship with Cassie, it was shown in a thorough and understandable way. I never questioned or doubted the reality of any of these relationships.

Another thing I admired in this book was how relatable it was. The raw, heartbreaking emotions in this book were so easy to identify with, and they made me really think about how hard it is to turn back once you've been pushed over that edge. Sure, a lot of people reading this have never struggled with an eating disorder, but they've probably stood next to someone and thought I wish I could look like that. What happens when you take that a few steps further? It stops being simple, or something you can just shrug off.

Here's a warning to those of you looking to read this novel: it is not for the light of heart. I've seen a few reviews out there saying things like "sickening" or "too depressing" or even that it should be censored, but I think that certain issues shouldn't be watered down to make them less upsetting to the public. If you are interested in a raw and honest account of one girl's struggle with anorexia, go ahead and pick this up. If you are looking for a fairy tale, I suggest you look elsewhere.

Five stars!


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