Genre: Realistic Fiction.
Audience: 9th-12th grade.
Read-Aloud: This passage illustrates the colorful image driven language Anderson uses in her novel.
The second Read-Aloud shows Cassie and Lei’s friendship.
Summary: Lei is an anorexia senior in high school who has lost her best friend. Cassie, Lei’s ex-best friend, was found dead alone in a motel room. Cassie died as a result of bulimia. Even before her death, Lei and Cassie had grown apart, and both had eating disorders. Now, Lei must deal with the death of her old friend, the ghost of Cassie, and struggle with concealing her eating disorder.
Themes: One of the themes addressed in this novel are eating disorders. Cassie has bulimia while Lei has anorexia. The novel discusses the extremities people with eating disorders go to when hiding their lack of eating habits. Lei would sew quarters in her pockets so she would appear to have more weight on the scale. She also drank black coffee because of the lack of calories. Throughout the book, Lei deals with how she looks. She believes she is too fat. At the end of the book she comes to the realization she will always want to have a lower weight goal.
Another theme in the novel is recovery. Recovery is not a short process when it comes to eating disorders. In the novel, Lei goes to a therapist. In the beginning of the novel, Lei mentions how her family was aware she had an eating disorder, but she got help. Lei had relapsed and is now hiding it from her family. The book takes the reader through Lei hiding the disorder from her family and telling her family she does not need to go to therapy.
Connections: Symbolism is used in this novel. If the class is reading The Scarlet Letter, which utilizes symbolism, an expert from Wintergirls can be read. For example, the class could read the section where Cassie and Lei discuss the meaning of being a Wintergirl. The class would then talk about symbolism and what the term ‘wintergirl’ suggests. This novel can also be paired with the poem Fat Is Not a Fairy Tale. Both texts relate to appearances and has to do with body images.
Reactions: I really enjoyed this novel. Even though the book discusses dark subject matter, it was easy to connect to. Through the language and all the descriptions in Anderson’s writing, the reader feels connected with Lei. Lei is a whiny teenager, but the powerful language and topic matter make up for Lei being annoying. This book is very emotion driven.
Receptions: On A blog on WordPress, someone wrote “Her mind was mush. Her thoughts needlessly repetitive. She may read to escape but she obviously doesn’t glean any wisdom from her readings.” This individual did not find Wintergirls to be realistic. Granted, Lei does repeat hear thoughts of being fat, but the repetition adds to the story.
On Enotes, someone claimed “the author handles a difficult problem with unflinching realism and honesty, making this offering a valuable addition to the canon of young adult literature.” The honesty in the novel and importance of this topic are voiced in this novel. Anderson addresses the issue of eating disorders in an approachable manner.