Monday, November 09, 2009

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

A breath of steam trickles out, filled with the sobs of a grown woman breaking into girl-sized pieces.

Laurie Halse Anderson has for years been a favorite YA author amongst both adults and teens alike, and with excellent reason. Her characters are those who teens--especially girls--can understand, girls who are survivors of others' crimes or their own malicious webs, girls who develop their strength through the pages, through their own words.

Wintergirls is narrated by Lia, an anorexic girl whose former best friend died as the result of her bulimia. They were a team, Lia and Cassie, who motivated each other's unhealthy obsession with thinness, who had a pact to be the skinniest girls in school, even when they seemed close to realizing how dangerous/stupid it was:

I totally supported her. I looked up the names of docs and clinics. I e-mailed her recovery Web sites.

And I sabotaged her every step.
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.
I love the care Anderson takes with her character's voice. The unconventional ways she clarifies Lia's obsession: "I eat ten raisins (16) and five almonds (35) and a green-bellied pear (121)(=172)." Or: "I can't see her see me now strong/empty/strong." And her obsession doesn't stop at counting calories, because now she's being haunted by Cassie, who called Lia before she died. 33 times.
Of course the main conflict in the book is internal, Lia vs. herself, but there's plenty of other drama in her life, too--her father and mother, long separated, don't get along. She doesn't get along with her mother (although she mostly gets along with her stepmother and loves her half-sister). And then there's Cassie's ghost to contend with (because even if she's just a figment of Lia's demented, starved head or not, she serves as a character in the book all the same).

If I were still teaching, I would have multiple copies of this on my classroom shelves, and I'd expect at least one copy to go missing every year for the first few years.

I'm very excited that my library finally got this on their shelves. (It was in the new arrivals section when I walked by. I think I happy-danced it all the way to the checkout counter.)


Jen - devourer of books said...

I really enjoyed this book, well, I don't know if 'enjoyed' is the right word, but I thought it very well done.

bermudaonion said...

I've had this in my TBR pile for a while and really need to get to it since I loved Speak by Anderson.

Kathleen said...

I just bought this one a few weeks ago based on other bloggers' reviews. Your review makes me realize I should really move it up the list and get to it sooner!

Zibilee said...

I have been intrigued by this book for quite awhile now, and want to grab a copy of both this one and Speak. Great review, I'll let you know what I think of it!