Wintergirls

by Laurie Halse Anderson
ages: 14+
First sentence: “So she tells me, the words dribbling out with the cranberry muffin crumbs, commas dunked in her coffee.”
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You can’t say that Laurie Halse Anderson writes fluff. Her books — the ones I’ve read anyway — are anything but. She’s not afraid to tackle the hard issues, the ones that so many people skirt around, and to do it head-on, no-holds-barred. These are not kind worlds her characters inhabit; they’re tough, brutal, scarring.

And, yet, somehow, Anderson makes it all come up, well if not roses at least something less harsh than what went on throughout the rest of the book.

This time around, Anderson tackles anorexia. It’s not a pretty picture. It’s not a pretty book. It’s a tough book — almost too tough, too brutal. Lia is an anorexic. She’s been admitted to a treatment facility twice, but it hasn’t seemed to help (much). And now, her (former) best friend, Cassie, has been found, dead, in a motel room. She’s taken to haunting Lia, who can’t shake the feeling that she should have done something (what?) to intervene. And yet, she’s finding she can’t save herself from her own demons.

It wasn’t so much the story in this book — Lia’s a miserable main character, and is happiest inflicting misery on those around her — as the way it was told. Part of the reason Lia is a miserable main character is that we live inside her head. We hear the demons — written in a smaller, different font than the rest of the text — we see the inner conflicts — written so effectively like this. The constant battle Lia is waging with herself, with the control she wants to have in her life, with the emotional neglect, with the perception she has of herself. It’s quite moving. Harsh and terrifying, yes. But also very, very moving.

Which is everything we’ve come to expect from a Laurie Halse Anderson book.

7 thoughts on “Wintergirls

  1. This book was so difficult to read. Anderson's writing is so meticulously, I think she planned each sentence to be a punch to the gut. I had issues with it which I think is how the author intended it, and I almost disliked it, since as you said, Lia is a miserable character but again, I think that was the point. She wants you to identify with the issue, not the individual.

    I think it would be fascinating to hear her talk about her books.

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  2. I just finished reading it and I liked it too.

    I saw a video of the author giving a talk about her book (I think it was at a book signing) and she was incredibly passionate about it. It's actually what made me want to read the book.

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  3. It is scary, Amanda. I had to double-book this one, and put it aside for long periods of time precisely because it's so difficult to get through. Then again, anorexia is terrifying. (I kept asking M about her eating habits while I was reading. She is glad that I'm done as well!)

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