Book Review: Wintergirls
Laurie Halse Anderson
Anderson is known for her deft skill with words and this latest book packs a wallop. Lia is an anorexic, supposedly recovering, but still caught within the depths of the illness even after her best friend, a bulimic dies from the binge/purge cycle.
Narrated by Lia in a somewhat journal-entry style, the reader is drawn in and it’s difficult to get out of the book and to get Lia out of your head. Her hyper-awareness of caloric intake and her obsessive focus on food and weight permeates the pages. You have crawled into the mind of a girl whose entire world is defined by the food she is not consuming. It’s defining her relationship with herself, with the other members of her family, and how she perceives everyone else around her.
The book follows Lia in weeks immediately following the death of her best friend Cassie. While struggling with her weight and her attempts to continue to hide her anorexia, Lia is taunted by Cassie’s ghost and gives insight via flashbacks to the relationship between the two girls. She turns to the internet and nameless other girls who seek affirmation in their quest to be super-thin. She voices the socially correct platitudes to the adults around her, hiding behind a mask of indifference and frustration.
Anderson’s work is powerful in it’s capture of the voice of a girl who cannot see anything beyond calories and desiring power over her own body through her ever lowering weight. Anderson has amazing insight and sympathy for girls caught in bodies they perceive as bloated, where they must inflict wounds to let out the pain and subject themselves to too much exercise and starvation to try and achieve what they feel will be beauty and strength.
There have been articles that suggest the book could be a trigger for some. It could. But so could watching the runway models at most of the major fashion shows or actually considering a career in modeling. (I’m on the extra-petite side of things and I know I’d have to “lose inches” as I’ve heard it referred to in order to model.)
It’s a powerful, utterly disturbing book. A quick read but not one I’d recommend for younger teens. It’s a frighteningly well done examination of illness from our nation’s obsession with being thin.