Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Partial book summary from the bookjacket of Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson 

Lia and Cassie are best friends, wintergirls frozen in matchstick bodies, competitors in a deadly contest to see who can be the skinniest. But what comes after size zero and size double-zero? When Cassie succumbs to the demons within, Lia feels she is being haunted by her friend's restless spirit.

As usual I am late coming to this book. Many reviews have already weighed in on the pros and cons of Wintergirls including the New York Times. Therefore, I have decided not to attempt another. Instead, I am merely going to write about my reactions to the story and to Anderson’s writing.

First, I found Wintergirls a dark disturbing journey into the world of one teenager’s eating disorder. As I read the book, I could not help but think, this is not a story I would ever feel comfortable recommending to my female students. Lia’s story is too honest, and implicit in its emotionality. I kept asking myself, do I want girls who have eating disorders, who cut themselves, whose self-esteem is measured by how skinny they are (which unfortunately describes a lot of girls in middle and high school), reading about Lia’s struggles? The answer was definitely no!

At the same time, I loved Anderson’s prose and style. Her prose has a poetic rhythm that mesmerizes. I was captivated by Lia’s voice and kept reading hoping that her spiral into the darkness of her disease would stop. One stylistic technique Anderson used to illustrate Lia’s thoughts, were strikeouts. I found this technique very effective in showing the little voice inside Lia’s head. I know that voice. I have one inside my head that contradicts or chastises me for the things I say and do, and while the strikeouts were far from excessive, they helped highlight Lia’s internal struggles in a way that I could related to. This is one of Anderson’s powers, telling stories that are worth reading, creating characters that are real and bringing issues to light that other writers won’t touch. Wintergirls tore at my heart. I wanted nothing more than to shake her, her mother, her father and her stepmother, because I hated being a part of her sickness and I wanted them to help her. I was involved, but like the adults around Lia, I realized that Lia had to want to be helped. So, while I will not be placing this book on my classroom shelf, I do think that it is worthy of praise and a great read for a mature audience.

8 Delicious Comments:

Caroline Starr Rose said...

I finished WINTERGIRLS last week and can't get it out of my head. Don't think I could recommend it to anyone younger than 18, I think, though it would be wonderful for adults who work with girls to read.

It was brutal, honest, and ultimately hopeful.

The Brain Lair (KB) said...

I have it at the middle school library in my office and any girl who reads Speak, as any 8th grade girl should, usually wants something else by her.

I too found this book depressing and when girls say they want to read it, I tell them that and they will need a "happy book" too.

I thought about not having this one but then I thought, what if it could change someone's mind? What if they could see the depression that was her life and used that to seek help?

LHA said she had many girls asking her to write this book and she didn't want to because she'd suffered from eating disorders herself - which I think comes through in the book.

It is a really tough book. Not enough hopefullness really but if books are intended to show readers themselves or an insight into others - maybe this would help?

Jenn (Books At Midnight) said...

Great review! I reviewed this a few months ago, and I can't really explain the effect Wintergirls had on me. It was dark, lyrical, and all-in-all stunning.

Jenners said...

This sounds like a very disturbing (but effectively done) book. Eating disorders in girls are such a sad sad thing. I could see why you might not want to put it out there for girls to read. And I think everyone has a little "editing" voice inside -- I know I do!

Anonymous said...

Ditto on the great review comment. Because of the material, I have avoided this one. Everyone gives it a high rating, but the dark, disturbing part has me avoiding it. Sounds silly, I know.

Alaine - Queen of Happy Endings said...

This is a great review, I'm not sure if this is a book I'd enjoy but I may just try it.

Alyssa Kirk @ Teens Read and Write said...

I too have avoided this book because of the material. It was highly praised and recommended at a writing conference I went to but I'm a teenager (who's never had these kind of problems) and I don't want to read it. I think you're wise not to put it in the classroom. I appreciate your excellent review. Thanks!

Alyssa Kirk @ Teens Read and Write said...

By the way, I was wondering if you'd like some bookmarks for your classroom. We have some that we made using the design on our header at Teens Read and Write. You can check it out ( and if you're interested just email us at

Thanks! I came over from J. Kaye's blog, FYI.

Post a Comment

Design by Use Your Imagination Designs All images from the Keeper Of Time kit by Studio Gypsy