Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson; Review

by Madeleine Rex

Title: Wintergirls

Author: Laurie Halse Anderson

Published: March, 2009

Number of Pages: 288

Rating: 3/5


Here stands a girl clutching a knife. There is grease on the stove, blood in the air, and angry words piled in the corners. We are trained not to see it, not to see any of it. . . . Someone just ripped off my eyelids.”


This book freaked me out. Slightly. It tackles such a heavy subject, one that affects hundreds of girls around my age. While I was reading, I couldn’t help but feel grateful that I don’t have a similar problem.

When they were eleven years old, Cassie and Lia vowed to be the skinniest girls at their school. Now, at eighteen, Cassie has died, and Lia is left alone. Haunted by her friend, the 33 calls Cassie left just before she died that went to voice mail, and the anorexia that is eating away at her.

This novel is haunting in and of itself. The writing is beautiful, the voice troubled and poetic simultaneously. The format of the story might get on some people’s nerves originally, but it’s easy to get used to once you realize how perfectly it fits Lia’s character.

A lot of this novel is about family. I believe that Lia’s main problem in life was a disconnection from her family. My parents and brother are everything to me, and I trust them with everything. Because of that, my life is comfortable, and I’m not in danger of feeling as despairingly alone as Lia feels in this novel. Even with her mom, stepmom, father, and stepsister, she’s determined that, in the long run, no one truly understands her – or, more importantly, that no one is trying to.

There were truly some major flaws in her family. Her father seems immature and self-centered, and her mother works constantly. The relationship I think the main focus was on was the mother-daughter relationship. Originally, Lia and her mother couldn’t have a conversation that didn’t morph into an argument thirty seconds in, but it was clear to me, as a reader, that her mother loved her. Imagine you had a daughter that was killing herself with starvation. You could see clearly that she was wasting away in front of you, but all your attempts at making her see this failed. You’d be distraught beyond comprehension.

It was incredible to see how much of Lia’s “process” relied on right-out denial. There were moments that looked like this:

I really need to eat.

I hate eating.

I really, really need to eat.

I love not-eating.

(Not a direct quote.) The visual of the crossed-out words was fascinating. She believed wholeheartedly that not eating would make her stronger, invincible. It would solve all her problems. And even when she was on the brink of death (I am not being melodramatic here), she stood firmly by that principal. If nothing else, it was horrifying.

Laurie Halse Anderson is known for dealing with difficult topics, and eating disorders take the cake. This is a story about a girl who is killing herself because she thinks it’s the way to live. What a terrible oxymoron. Anderson artfully addresses this topic, and I felt like I’d gotten a legitimate look into the mentality of someone in this situation. I felt for Lia strongly. This book is an incredible experience, but most certainly not for the faint-of-heart. It worried me to death. Eating disorders are so very real, and incredibly detrimental to both the person with the disorder and their family. I can’t imagine what I’d do if someone I loved was faced with this problem. This novel makes it evident that this is a group ordeal. A domino effect begins, and soon everyone is plagued by the disorder.

I didn’t find too many faults with this book. Honestly, I rated it a 3/5 due to the topic. It’s not the sort of book that I can truly enjoy. In addition, I didn’t feel like I really got to know some of the characters. I couldn’t understand why Cassie was so special, and Lia’s eating disorder practically dominated her character. I couldn’t really get to know her very well because all she could think about was food and not eating. I also would have liked to know Jennifer (the stepmom) better, because I liked her and thought her situation was interesting.

Wintergirls is a haunting, beautiful, and heartbreaking novel and one that will strike readers. This book will resonate with you and make you grateful for all that you have – particularly your mentality.

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