Anderson, Laurie Halse. Wintergirls. New York: Penguin Group 2009
Genre: Fiction, Drama, Coming of Age
Audience: Good book for grades 10-12 due to topic.
Read Aloud: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SR1pMP0QQcE
Summary: Lia is an 18 year old girl battling anorexia and struggling with the death of her friend, Cassie, who died from the same disorder. Throughout the book, Lia is having visions of Cassie’s ghost haunting her because Lia wasn’t there with her when she died. All Lia ever sees when it comes to food are the calories. She believes being empty is strong and beautiful and if she pollutes her insides with ugly food, then she is an ugly person. She doesn’t see herself for what she really is, she sees an overweight hippo which couldn’t be farther from the truth. At the end, Lia has the choice between giving up or getting better. She also helps Cassie’s ghost move on. This book tackles the sad topic about anorexia and how it can affect young people today.
Themes: Depression is a main theme. Lia and Cassie seemed to have both suffered from depression. They are unhappy and become addicted to an unhealthy habit just to feel something. It is more prevalent in Lia, as we see her battling with her sad feelings about Cassie, her parents, and her peers at school whispering behind her back. The book has a depressing way of writing in which the reader feels depressed reading it. The author does a tremendous job at capturing the desperation Lia feels along with the regret she felt over her relationship with Cassie.
Mental/Physical Illness is another theme for obvious reasons. Cassie died from her esophagus exploding due to throwing up to much as a result of her bulimia. Lia battles with anorexia and has illusions of Cassie’s ghost haunting her. This book shows the terrible side effects anorexia can have on a person. We can also see this illness taking over when Lia looks in the mirror and sees herself being fat and having bubbles in her stomach because she ate food. The illness makes a person see themselves as something they’re not. It is hard for youth to identify with such issues if they haven’t gone through it themselves. This book helps put readers in others shoes in order to help them understand what this disease is and what it means to be anorexic/bulimic.
Coming of Age can also be seen as a theme because at the end of the book, Lia turns her life around and accepts treatment. She no longer tries to deceive the people who are trying to help her. Instead, she welcomes their help with open arms. This book shows how Lia grows up and blossoms with life at the end. The book is almost in reverse order, showing Lia’s death (her body deprived of what it needs and her lack of motivation to live) and then shows her life just beginning at the very end when she is in treatment. I really liked that a lot.
Connections: I would teach this book along with a lesson on body image issues in today’s society. I would probably do what we did in the classroom and bring magazines for students to flip through and find realistic versus unrealistic body images. I would have a discussion and lesson on what anorexia/bulimia is and the effects it can have on a person. In class, I may pair this book with another book about cutting and self-injury. I also couldn’t help but notice the similarities of mental/physical illness between this book and the movie Momento. In Momento, the lead character suffered from an injury that left him with no short term memory. He had a mental illness that led him to have illusions about what was going on when in all actuality, it wasn’t. Like Lia, the main character suffered what he thought was a traumatic loss and it made him go crazy.
Reactions: I liked this book even though it was very depressing. Honestly, I am not sure how to go about teaching this in a classroom, but I would certainly try. It is a tough read for even myself because of how honest the text is, but I feel it is important for students to understand. This is a big issue in today’s society and this book can help students identify with this issue and learn how to prevent it. I would also probably bring up the website used in the text to show students that this problem is affecting a lot of people in the world and this is just one way of showing them how close it can hit home. It’s as close as turning on your computer and going on to the internet.
Reception: Katie’s Blog compares Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak with Wintergirls. She talks about how it was easy to identify with the main character in Speak whereas it was difficult to connect with Lia because she was a frustrating character. I feel like I was frustrated reading about Lia too, so I can connect with Katie on this one.
From one Kaitlyn to another, I couldn’t help but notice how this girl took out bits and pieces from the book I didn’t really focus on. She noticed how Anderson did a great job with the research into the habits of people with anorexia; such as how Lia’s senses like smell and taste were heightened, how Lia took her mind off of food cravings with body mutilation, convincing herself food would infect her and cutting everything she was given into small bits. It’s because of this research that we can really see this disease for what it truly is.
I am putting this link up because I thought it was interesting. It’s kind of like the blogs we saw in the book except this one has some people trying to help her.