Book: Laurie Halse Anderson. Wintergirls. New York: Penguin Group, 2009.
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Realistic Fiction
Audience: Grades 8 and up
Read-Aloud: Lia’s Cameo
Summary: Wintergirls is the story of an anorexic girl named Lia. Her ex best friend Cassie has just died alone in a motel room. The story starts with Lia discovering that Cassie tried to call her 33 times the night that she died. Lia is devastated by this and feels guilty because she did not answer the call of her friend in need. The story follows Lia as she thinks about her past life with Lia and struggles with her disorder. Eventually she finds a “friend” in Elijah, but he takes her money and leaves her. She almost dies in the same motel, but is found by her mother and gets to a hospital and begins to recover from her disorder.
Themes: A major theme in this book is eating disorders. Lia constantly struggles with her anorexia. She avoids eating as much as possible, even though she knows that she is hungry and would love to eat. She also exercises for hours on end to rid her body of all of the fat. Cassie also had an eating disorder called bulimia. She would binge eat and then throw up to purge herself before her body could absorb all of the fat from the food.
Another theme in this book could be self love. Lia has a hard time seeing that she has support from her family. She thinks that everyone is out to get her because she does not understand that she has a problem. She blames the families problems on others and think that they take their frustration out on her. This of course is wrong, and she evetually sees that she must get better in order to bring her family together once again.
Connections: This would be a good book to teach in the classroom because of the topics discussed throughout the novel. It might be banned or challenged because of all of the self destruction going on in the book. Lia often cuts herself to feel better. This would be good to teach however, because it will teach students the harmful effects of self cutting and eating disorders.
Reactions: I did not like this book at all. I understand that it touches on topics that students need to learn about, but there are other ways of teaching the harmful effects of eating disorders. The book just made me angry because Lia is a smart girl that knows what to say in order to get out of therapy sessions. If it were about a girl that was actually trying to get better, but still struggled with the eating disorder, I believe it would have been a far better book. But we are left with Lia, a smart teenage girl that readers have trouble connecting with because of her obliviousness to what is happening in the world around her.
Reception: One review called Wintergirls a good book because of the style in which Lia talks. “Those clever word games are used to powerful effect, from the endless repetitions of Lia’s self-hating mantras to the crossed-out words that give the lie to her own thoughts.” I however found these inner dialogues annoying because I always wanted to go inside the book and tell her to just eat!
Another review by the New York Times discusses the problem of Wintergirls triggering teenagers to become anorexic. “nothing in “Wintergirls” that glamorizes the illness, for some the mere mention of symptoms is problematic. “It’s about competition,” an anorexia sufferer once explained to me. “Sometimes all it takes to get triggered is to read about someone who weighs less than you do.”” I agree that some girls may see Lia at 90 pounds and think wow if she can do it so can I. I do not really see how a teenager thinking about becoming anorexic would be shied away from the disorder because it seemed like the author did not really allow the reader to fully visualize how disgusting her skinny body must be. Minor characters she meets do not make many comments on how skinny she is, and Elijah never comments on it until the very end of the book.