Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

Genre: YA Contemporary
Published: March 2009
Pages: 282
Book Source: Own purchase

"I swear to be the skinniest girl in school, skinnier than you."
Cassie's eyes got big. "I bet I'll be skinnier than you."
"No, don't make it a bet. Let's be skinniest together."
Okay, but I'll be skinnier."

Lia and Cassie are Wintergirls, best friends from the 3rd grade, best friends until they weren't. Lia is 18, a senior and anorexic, Cassie is bulimic, well until she's found dead, alone in a motel room. Cassie's oesophagus ruptures from prolonged, violent vomiting & Lia's mindset becomes more disordered & tortured as her friend haunts her dreams and waking hours.

Cassie opens her Pandora's box every night and hitches a ride to my room. She doesn't watch from the shadows anymore. She attacks. Once the sleeping pill straps my arms and legs down to the mattress, she opens my skull and rips out the wiring. She screams holes in my brain and pukes blood down my throat. (p. 183)

Wintergirls was released to a cacophony of debate & speculation; teens suffering from eating disorders expressed gratitude for a story that decreased their sense of isolation & mental health experts labelled the book a “how-to guide for falling off the edge."

For me, Wintergirls was exquisitely painful. Why, you ask, would I choose those words. Laurie Halse Anderson's unique, metaphorical writing style is powerful and brutal, the story is so gut-wrenching I felt like I was sitting inside Lia's head, inside the tormented head of a matchstick girl in the near fatal grip of a severe eating disorder, and it was an experience that I found terribly depressing.


They gave me rules for moments like this ...
1. identify the feeling
2. recite magic incantantions, affirmations ...
6. click heels together 3 times and repeat; there's no place like home, there's no place like home, there's no place like home. A tornado will be along momentarily to whisk you away to safety or a house might drop on your head.

Yes, it's a realistic mirror of many teens lives, but I don't know whether it's a mirror some should look in. Starving, calorie counting, self-hate mantras, razor cuts, lying, vomiting, obsessive exercise, a catalogue of destructive behaviours in the struggle to weigh nothing! I found the gleeful encouragement from the not-so-secret pro-mia & pro-ana online support groups a distressing and glamourising inclusion in the story.

I can't give this book a rating, I honestly don't know how to, nor do I want to. Wintergirls is gut-wrenching, disturbing, depressing & difficult to read, I can't say I loved it but I am glad to have read it.

In the following clip Laurie Halse Andersons explains her motivation for writing Wintergirls. Visit the author's website or blog, Mad Woman in the Forest & check out the Wintergirls website for more information, teaching resources and helpful links.


  1. Thank you for giving such an honest review, I do think I might give this one a miss.

  2. Props to you for braving your way through this tough subject, I don't think I'm strong enough though.

  3. Thanks for the honest review. I don't think this one is for me.

  4. I know plenty of bloggers who loved this story, Laurie Halse Anderson certainly writes brilliantly but it was just too depressing for me, maybe others won't think so??

  5. I liked Speak and I'm looking forward to other books by her, but after reading that first quote you put up, I think I'll pass on this one. I don'tt hink I could handle it.

  6. I feel that this is one of those books that I should read. I understand it is painful, but I have always struggled with my weight fluctuating and I am to blame for my girls growing up in a house of a weight conscious person. My girls have always been skinny,but they eat and eat and eat, so I worry that they don't put on weight. So I worry that they could so easily fall down this route and I watch them to make sure they don't.

  7. I still haven't decided whether I will read this or not but i think i might. Thanks for the honest review.

  8. I am planning on reading this. Thank you for your powerful review. It definitely conveys the difficulty you had reading it.

    I can definitely understand why some wouldn't want to read this.

  9. Great review. I really need to read this book...Its on the TBR shelf...still..

  10. I'm not sure I'm strong enough to read this. It looks like a powerful novel on a subject hopefully many of us will not have to expereince.

  11. I understand how you feel about the book. I haven't read it, but I have read others similar. After reading it, you're left exhausted and sad. It sounds very intense...I am not sure I want to brave reading it (at least not right now!) Thanks for your honest review.

  12. "...but it was just too depressing for me..." Heard the same thing through another blogger and that changed my mind about the book. I love dark, but not depressing. I remember THE ROAD. Beautifully written, but it took me days to get over the depressed feeling. Can't take depressing....not at all.

  13. Oh. My...

    Well having lived through a close family member who suffered severe anorexia, it sounds like this author certainly knew her subject.

    However, I give you accolades Teddyree, because I don't think I could have gotten through it!

    A sad, horrible, gut wrenching disease that puts young lives at risk and certainly torments parents to no end.

    Thank you for sharing your wise thoughts.


  14. Mishel got the right word for your review-- powerful. Great review, thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  15. I like how your voice came through on this review. It was powerful and you expressed your thoughts eloquently. It was a hard book to read but like you I'm glad that I did.

  16. This was a well-written review. I have Wintergirls on my TBR list. Usually the books that move us the most are the hardest to describe and review.

  17. I am definitely intrigued by your excellent review of this book, though I can see why it doesn't appeal to some people. It sounds like it reflects a side of life that's quite real for too many young people. I'm adding this to my TBR list.

  18. Hi Teddyree

    I've got of getting this book, but always stop myself. I don't know if I could finish it. After your review, I'm torn between needing to read it and being able to finish it.



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