Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

by Kat Alexander

Four point five eight three nine two four out of five

Lia is a wintergirl–an anorexic, struggling to stay below 100 pounds while still treading water and avoiding her parents’ concern. A wintergirl, stuck between being dead and being alive, but not really either. She and her friend Cassie swore to be the skinniest girls in the school, and now Lia’s won the contest by default–Cassie died yesterday. It’s over for her, but it’s far, far from it for Lia.

After being slightly disappointed by Speak (that’s right, I was very slightly disappointed by Speak–stay with me here, people) because of all the hype surrounding it, I was a little more wary not to listen to anything anyone said about Wintergirls. Impartial jury and all. And, as with Speak, it’s much easier to be impressed if you don’t have a billion and one glowing reviews to compare against.

That said, Wintergirls fascinated me. The copy I read actually is a friend’s (I promise I’ll give it back right after I finish this review!), and she’d underlined all through some of the most powerful sentences–and this is a person who stubbornly resists annotating books for teachers and aligns that with vandalism (so do I). And it makes total sense–something this profound just NEEDS to be recognized.

There’s something magical about the way Wintergirls is written that deserves the recognition. The crossed-out phrases (how can people object to this?! It adds so much life to know both what Lia thinks and what she thinks she shouldn’t!), the calorie counts on every food she consumes, the italics between her transitions into flashbacks and back to reality, Elijah just in general, Cassie’s post-mortem visits (the perfect mixture of fantasy and reality)… the way Lia says the most profound things sometimes, but she’s not obnoxious about it, instead the exact opposite–she’s innocently brilliant and doesn’t even realize it.

It’s purely Lia, as well–first person at its best. She doesn’t try to explain why she’s anorexic, she doesn’t spend time trying to explain her internal struggles–you either grok it or you don’t, Lia’s not here to explain anything. She’s here to tell a story. I found this kind of refreshing–you can’t explain an emotion. Horrible things can’t be explained. There’s no better way to empathize than to read it, to live it, and that’s what Wintergirls does–it lets you live it. Empathize, not understand. Purely Lia.

I’m not a perfect person. I confess to reading every review on the back and after reading the actual book every review inside the front cover. Publisher’s Weekly stole what I was going to say next, so I’ll just quote them instead: “As difficult as reading this novel can be, it’s even more difficult to put it down.”

Kat is a freshman at a nerd school. She believes there are two types of people who plot: novelists and evil dictators, and aspires to some day be both.

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