April 8, 2010

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

Eighteen-year-old Lia is dealing with the death of her best friend Cassie. She's living with her father, stepmother and stepsister while trying to finish her last year of high school. Things wouldn't be so bad if she could just loose ten pounds. Then maybe ten more. No matter how skinny Lia gets it won't change how she sees herself in the mirror. Lia has anorexia, and sadly her best friend Cassie dealt with bulimia. Both are eating disorders that cause the girls to become dangerously thin among other physically and mentally harmful consequences. Lia can't help the way she feels about her body, and she feels that no one can understand her. When Cassie dies Lia has to take a good long look at her life, her family, and her body issues before they end up killing her.

I have to say I'm always impressed with the way Anderson creates such vivid voices for her characters. Lia is not a cookie cutter teen girl who happens to have issues about her weight. Lia is dealing with real psychological problems which manifest in the form of her weight. She doesn't understand why no one else can see what she sees, whether its her weight or Cassie's ghost, and she knows that if anyone did know they'd send her to "the nut house". So everything Lia feels and thinks stays with Lia. This causes frustration and anger with her family, especially her Neurosurgeon mother, who just wants Lia to eat.

I'm late again, and dreaming halfway out the door (99.00! 99.00! 99.00! Tomorrow will be 98.00!) when the red blinking light catches me. The answering machine. Not my problem. Jennifer will get it when she comes home.

But what if it is Jennifer, asking me to pick up Emma after school again? Or my dad, needing some important papers he forgot. Or Cassie---

Well, no. Not Cassie. (pg. 53)
The real strength of this novel is in the way Anderson depicts the repercussions that occur when someone is anorexic. Anorexia doesn't just hurt the person with it. Anorexia hurts everyone that loves that person. It causes tension in Lia's fathers second marriage, it causes her younger sister to deal with what Lia is experiencing and doing to herself, and it pushes her mother to sheer anger at the fact that her daughter is slowly starving herself to death. What anorexia and bulimia do, physically, to the body is also addressed and all of these elements give a real-life understanding to it.

I applaud Anderson for writing a book and dedicating it to all the readers that have contacted her over the years who deal with problems concerning their body weight and/or cutting. I would highly recommend this book to YA readers. I'm sure it will touch more men and women of all ages then I could possibly know.

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