Review of “Wintergirls”

Anderson, Laurie Halse.  Wintergirls.  Viking, New York, 2009.  ISBN:  9780670011100

Lia’s best friend Cassie has just died alone in a hotel room.  Lia still doesn’t know what the cause for her death was.  What she does know is that Cassie called her 33 times the night she died.  Lia never answered.  They hadn’t been best friends anymore and now Cassie haunts Lia day and night.  They shared a pact, a competition, to become the skinniest girls in school.  Lia’s anorexia coupled with her parents’ divorce and the ghost of her ex-best friend put Lia in a strange fantasy land that only a Wintergirl can understand.

This book has a mixture of reality and fantasy.  Unlike Anderson’s Speak, this novel has much more vivid hallucinations, or, hauntings as the protagonists views them.  The same theme of a devastating circumstance is still present, however, and as in Speak, Anderson weaves the daily pain with a very traumatic event.  There’s a lot going on with this main character and you get pulled into her world.  With Lia, her troubles are more sinister and creepy.  Heck, they’re downright disturbing.  But you still want to be the reader who helps her through to the end where she can finally begin to thaw.

School Library Journal reviewed this book by stating, “As events play out, Lia’s guilt, her need to be thin, and her fight for acceptance unravel in an almost poetic stream of consciousness in this startlingly crisp and pitch-perfect first-person narrative. The text is rich with words still legible but crossed out, the judicious use of italics, and tiny font-size refrains reflecting her distorted internal logic. All of the usual answers of specialized treatment centers, therapy, and monitoring of weight and food fail to prevail while Lia’s cleverness holds sway. What happens to her in the end is much less the point than traveling with her on her agonizing journey of inexplicable pain and her attempt to make some sense of her life.”  I would use this book, as with Anderson’s other books, for a real-to-fiction project in a high school English class.  The students could choose Wintergirls and discuss the issues that the book address to the class as a group and/or in a visual presentation.

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