Review – Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

“I can’t remember what it’s like to eat without planning for it, charting the calories and the fat content and measuring my hips and thighs to see if I deserve it and usually deciding no, I don’t deserve it, so I bite my tongue until it bleeds and I wire my jaw shut with lies and excuses while a blind tapeworm wraps itself around my windpipe, snuffing and poking for a wet opening to my brain.” (209)

Wintergirls is told in Lia’s voice,  a high schooler who is trying (half-heartedly) to recover from anorexia.  She is constantly concerned with how much she is eating and how much she is exercising, even though she went through rehabilitation to get her back to normal.  Then, when her best friend Cassie dies from her bulimia, it makes Lia return full-force to her habits, out of her own guilt, anger and fear.

This novel is easily one of the best books I’ve read this year.  It is heartbreaking and disturbingly beautiful.  The description and language is perfect and it was impossible not to get into Lia’s head.  One one level you know what she is doing is wrong, but Lia rationalizes so well it’s unsettling how logical she sounds.  Wintergirls is so well-researched and there are parts of it that will make you scream and chapters and chapters that will make you cry.

I loved this novel for many reasons.  First of all, it’s about an Issue-with-a-capital-I, but it never feels like it.  Secondly, the writing is somewhat experimental, for lack of a better word, using strikethroughs to convey Lia’s conflicting feelings about food and heavy metaphors to describe what it feels like to suffer from anorexia, and both techniques are perfect. In terms of the craft of writing, this is a book that could and should cross the genre boundary.

I feel as though I am not doing this book justice.  Here are some passages:

“…I turn on my computer and visit a country I haven’t been to in months, a whispersecretblog for girls like me….

_
Gained .5lbs between breakfast and after school.  Only water for the rest of the day, and then ill begin fasting again tomorrow.  Love you all, girls!
_

I blacked out and fell down a flight of stairs so I ate two bowls of cereal and now I feel so gross.  How long do I have to run to get rid of it?

_

Wow.  I am such a FAT ASS.
You know its true.
I want to cut it all off.
_

I have 2 weeks and 6 days to loose 10 pounds.   Help!
_

staystrongloveloveBperfekt

Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of strange little girls screaming through their fingers.  My patient sisters, always waiting for me.  I scroll through our confessions and rants and prayers, desperation eating us one slow bloody bite at a time. (112)

My hands read a Braille map hewn from bone, starting with my hollow breasts threaded with blue-vein rivers thick with ice.  I count my ribs like rosary beads, muttering incantations, fingers curling under the bony cage.  They can almost touch what’s hiding inside.

My skin slopes down over the empty belly, then around the inside sharp curve of my hip bones, bowls carved out of stone and painted with fading pink razor scars.  I twist in the glass.  My vertebrae are wet marbles piled one on top of the other.  My winged shoulder blades look ready to sprout feathers. (222)

The second passage is pure poetry.  If you put it into stanzas it would be a beautiful poem.  I really cannot recommend this book enough.

So go read this!:  NOW| tomorrow | next week | next month | next year | when you’ve exhausted your TBR

Also reviewed by: Biblio File, Rhiannon Hart, Books on the Brain, Hey Lady Watcha Readin’?,  BookZombie, A Chair, A Fireplace, A Tea Cozy, Book Addiction, Stuff As Dreams Are Made On, Devourer Of Books, Reading is my Superpower, Open Mind, Insert Book, State of Denmark, Presenting Lenore, Becky’s Book Reviews.

Did you read and review Wintergirls? Tell me in a comment and I’ll link to your post here.

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13 thoughts on “Review – Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

  1. You already know why I can’t read this book. I even skipped over the quotes you gave because I got so sick the last time I read a quote from this book. My YA book club is reading this for June and I will conveniently be out of town or something that night.

  2. Maybe I’ll trade with Amanda, because the prose in this book sounds beautiful! Ugly, but beautiful. So many issues books seem to kind of idealize the victim, or else glamourize the issue, or else they’re didactic and preachy. This one sounds better than that. And, this is an issue that’s always been difficult for me to get (probably because I never had anyone telling me subtly or not-subtly how I needed to be thin…)

    1. Jason: Ugly but beautiful is the perfect way to describe this book. That’s really what it is. There is no idealization here (unless it’s in Lia’s head) nor is there any glamorization. For me, it was almost too easy to understand Lia and what she was thinking.

  3. I’ve wanted to read this for awhile. Thanks for the reminder. It sounds really good, if disturbing. I’m going to put it on my library
    TBR list…

  4. I’m such a fan of Anderson and still haven’t recovered from reading her novels Twisted and Catalyst earlier this year! I have Wintergirls sitting on my shelf but have been a little bit afraid to read it, honestly… her novels are so powerful! I love the quotes you pulled, though, and think it’s time I caved and got to it.

  5. This novel sounds like something you can’t read lightly, yet the samples of Anderson’s prose you quoted in your review are just so beautiful. I haven’t read any of Anderson’s books but I’m sure to check her out in the future.

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