Book: Laurie Halse Anderson. Wintergirls. New York: Penguin Group, 2009.
Genre: Realistic young adult fiction
Audience: Grades 9th-12th
Summary: Lia’s best friend, Cassie, passed away after years of battling Bulimia. The two of them had made a pact when they were young to be the skinniest girls in their school and weighing in at 95 pounds and continuing to lose weight, Lia has kept the pact even after Cassie and Lia’s friendship ended months ago. After being in and out of the hospital for Anorexia she continues forward with her anorexic behaviors after moving out of her mothers house and moving in with her father and step mother. Lia begins seeing the ghost of Cassie every where that she goes, and at first is terrified but then begins to find comfort in her comfort. After talking to her counselor and allowing her insight that she has never revealed to anyone she finds that death is not a path she is ready to follow and by helping Cassie cross over into heaven she can begin her road to recovery.
Body Image: Lia has battled Anorexia for years now and never seems satisfied with how she looks and her weight. She is slowly killing herself, and once she finds out that her best friend has recently died from the eating disorder that she suffered from it does not deter her it only make her want to be skinny even stronger. The way she describes herself is as if one could look through her, she is virtually bone and skin with no fat on her body yet she still sees herself as fat and ugly. She is well below 100 pounds, lies and deceives her family, has traumatized her younger sister, and lost many that she cares about before she realizes her weight is not something she wants to lose her life over.
Family: After Lia’s mother and father got a divorce she has struggled to find a place where she belongs in her family. She moved out of her mother’s house because they fought constantly and lives with her nagging step mother, father, and younger step sister emma. Emma is the one person that seems to never nag or judge Lia but loves her unconditionally. Lia fights the help her family tries to give her through out the book and resists the temptation of food and health her family pushes towards her constantly. Her attempt at suicide is the turning point of her and emma’s relationship when emma finds her bleeding and motionless; Lia has hurt the one person in her life that makes her feel happy and when that is taken away for her she wants to do everything in her power to make things better. Ultimately her family becomes the one thing that she needs to overcome her illness and without them she would have died alone.
Connections: The connection that I have made for this book is that the main characters were young adult facing common issues present in high school age students. This book could be a good tool used in a health classroom when studying body image and eating disorders. Also, I feel this would be a great book to reinforce how the media and our peers effect how we perceive our own bodies and the way we look.
Reactions: I did enjoy this book, though it was darker then what I would normally read. It was so incredibly raw in the way Lia was depicted and the thoughts and emotions she felt while her eating disorder persisted. I would love to teach this in a classroom thought I feel it would be hard to gain permission by both school board and parents. I think it is excellent to not only make students aware of how serious this topic can be but also how to get help or help others who may be dealing with this issue.
Reception: A reader on Goodreads.com did not find the novel enjoyable. She never made any kind of connection to Lia and did not like the writing style the author chose to use. She found no satisfaction in the way that the chapters were labeled, in fact she found them to be distracting and the descriptions did nothing for her either.
“I didn’t care for the writing style, all the crossed out words just felt like an unneccessary affectation that slowed down the pace of the book. The chapter headings 001.00, etc were a distraction that took me several chapters to even realize what the numbers meant. The descriptions are ugly.
I didn’t make any connection to Lia and never grew to like her. As written, her character seemed like a spoiled rich brat who was not even kind enough to pick up the phone to speak to the parents of her dead best friend, even when the girl’s mother is begging her.
She is willing to run off with a young man that she barely knows or likes in order to not have to face the consequences of what she’s done to herself. She uses him to get what she wants/needs without giving him even a tiny bit of honesty until she is forced to do so. None of the things she does make me understand her or like her. I simply never grew to care whether or not she got well and had this book been successful for me, I should have cared.
Lia makes reference to the fact that she knows she is starving herself so she isn’t acting out of unawareness or confusion, she simply doesn’t care if she’s hurting herself or her family or anyone. Her attitude toward her parents is heartless and cold, although all they try to do throughout the entire book is help her. She blames them for her illness and doesn’t ever seem to take responsibility for it on herself. A quote from the end of the book: “The tiny elf dancer became a wooden doll whose strings were jerked by people not paying attention.”
That seems to say that she still isn’t responisible for what she did to herself, if they’d been paying more attention to her, instead of trying to get her to be what they wanted or pursuing their careers, she wouldn’t have gotten sick, in her opinion. I’m sure there are many better books about anorexia. This reads like a manual on how to be anorexic. For me this one is a don’t bother to read it.”
Another reader on goodreads.com felt that this book was incredibly powerful and real. She thought it was a nice edition to the book list Laurie has released over the years, such as speak.
“Laurie Halse Anderson has done it again. With this being the tenth anniversary of the release of SPEAK, it is a wonderful time for WINTERGIRLS to debut. It is an extremely powerful and honest look at the life of an anorexic girl. You will be choked up and at a loss for words by the time you get to the final page”