Review: Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

From Goodreads:

Lia and Cassie were best friends, wintergirls frozen in matchstick bodies. But now Cassie is dead. Lia’s mother is busy saving other people’s lives. Her father is away on business. Her step-mother is clueless. And the voice inside Lia’s head keeps telling her to remain in control, stay strong, lose more, weigh less. If she keeps on going this way—thin, thinner, thinnest—maybe she’ll disappear altogether.

Although this book was a tough emotional read, it was also one of the most realistic portrayals of anorexia I’ve ever read.  While mostly a book about eating disorders, it also includes content on suicide, and family breakups.  Anderson writes about this serious content in a haunting lyrical fashion that captivates the reader from the first page.  She is able to explain situations using very few words, and uses a lot of different formatting, including tiny numbers/text, repeated lines, and text strikeouts.

I found it interesting that several times Lia referred to her past as “…when I was a real girl”.  I suppose, as her weight plummeted to scary skinny, she wasn’t truly a real girl, but rather a ghost of her former self. I couldn’t imagine the hell of calorie counting every morsel of food that entered my mouth.  For many anorexics like Lia, this is an everyday struggle and the effects are often shown both physically and behaviourally.  As a coping mechanism, Lia also turned to self -loathing, lying, and self-mutilation.  I often wonder why on earth individuals would do that to themselves, and this book really helped to understand the mind of a crazy, calorie-counting obsessed teenaged anorexic.  Before eating anything, Lia considered the calorie content—for example, “Toast (70) calories. Razor-thin spread of jam (30)= 100 calories.”  However, as demonstrated in the book, anorexia cannot be simple cured or fixed –despite best efforts of health professionals, family, and friends.  Like Anderson writes:

“There is no magic cure, no making it all go away forever. There are only small steps upward; an easier day, an unexpected laugh, a mirror that doesn’t matter anymore.”

Overall, I’m glad Anderson wrote a book aimed at YA readers since teens and young adult women are most commonly diagnosed with eating disorders.   It is a sensitive, yet serious issue that needs to be addressed more frequently.  I have a feeling that this story will stay with me for a long time.

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