Monday, May 10, 2010

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson, who also is the author of the acclaimed novel--Speak, wrote this very illuminating tale of a girl who is going through a very very very incredibly rough patch in her life.

Here is what inside the cover says,

"Dead girl walking," the boys say in the halls.

"Tell us your secret," the girls whisper, one toilet to another.
I am that girl.

I am the space between my thighs, daylight shining through.

I am the bones they want, wired on a porcelain frame.

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 stepmother 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.

In her most emotionally wrenching, lyrically written book since the National Book Award finalist, Speak, bestselling author Laurie Halse Anderson explores one girl's chilling descent into the all-consuming vortex of anorexia.

Now if the blurb from the cover didn't give you enough chills to go read this.  Just go read it.

The author carved a beautiful girl into a disastrous mess very well in this story.  Lia, our main character, doesn't feel loved, doesn't feel beautiful, and doesn't feel wanted by anyone or anything.  She's just the space between everything else in everyone else's life.  At first it makes you want to cry while reading it.  Why would anyone put themselves through this kind of misery?  But as Laurie Halse Anderson keeps the story moving forward, and slightly making the reader hope that Lia will live through this agony, you get a sense of what it may be like for these girls (in this case, teenage girls) who go through anorexia, bulimia, and cutting.  It makes you itch and crawl and your stomach churn with the numbers that are put on the page for how much one half a banana equals to in calorie, or what it feels like to sweat every night in secret to lose those extra five pounds in just a couple days.  I can tell you that my mouth watered for food and water on every single page of this book.

Lia is a very well thought out, mapped out character in this story.  As the story is in first person, you can get a real sense of what it is to be Lia.  To feel how she may feel.  The way her thoughts are written are truly magnificent.  There is no other author--I feel--that could capture such anguish and misery into one character.  As you read and watch Lia turn this way and that way and really try to win at anorexia without dying and cutting away her life through razors and knives, you really feel for her and I know I wanted to hug her every time she would swallow that bite of banana or bagel and cheer for just that small amount.  As the reader though, it's impossible to do that to a character.  But also the way that Lia's thoughts are written out are truly reeling.  You'll read through a lot--and I mean A LOT--of strike through words, sentences, and phrases even of all the good that does enter Lia's mind at times.  But also those are the strikeouts.  The bad thoughts are stronger, more domineering, and more in control that Lia cannot refuse what they tell her.  That's what makes you cry as a reader.  I don't think I'd really understood what went through the minds of those who suffer with anorexia or bulimia before I had read this book.  Now I do.  I feel as if I have suffered with Lia through this and now want to make it better.

I don't want to give much away about the story.  But like the blurb says up above, Lia and Cassie were best friends.  Then Cassie dies.  That's the way the story begins.  Cassie is dead and Lia can't seem to face the truth of it.  She had been getting better a bit slowly from earlier on before the story began, but as the story goes on, you read that she never left her winterland.  Just stepped across the border into spring to make people happy and since Cassie's death, winterland is her own.  It all goes downhill from there like Lia is riding a sled down a very tall snow-covered mountain.

Even though this story is depressing, and the first book I've read by Laurie Halse Anderson, I would like to call her the Jodi Picoult for teenagers.  And although this story has elements in it that no one should ever read this kind of in-depth material, I have made a decision that will hopefully never bite me in the behind ever for it.  It is a decision that my children will read this when they are ready for it.  I would like them to know that (like Lia's family tries to show her but she always puts away) no matter what, their family is there for them for anything.  It doesn't have to be a battle between disease, disorder and family.  It can be a winning goal though for person suffering the disorder or disease because they looked to their family for support and love and didn't try to wash it all away.  I know that things this bad, as in Lia's case, are never that easy to deal with, even with family at your side.  But it's something we all should know, anorexic, bulimic or not.

This book truly touched my heart and it goes out there for all the girls, young women and women and even some boys and men that go through eating disorders.  It also goes out to the author, Laurie Halse Anderson, for taking on such a strong subject that truly affects many many people in our world today and will always affect us in one way or another.  Bravo for taking such a strong subject and showing us the world that not many people--like myself--really understand.

I highly recommend this book to everyone aged thirteen and older.  (If this book needed a rating, I'd rate it PG-13).  Maybe you can see yourself in Lia somehow and overcome whatever it is you need to overcome like she needs.  And even though the story has the family hiding in the shadows mostly in the background, family is life.  Family is our truest support in this world of hardship and trials.  And I'll get off my soapbox now because this is supposed to be a book review, not a counseling session.

Truly though, this was a fantastic book.  Magnificently written.  Excellent story, excellently told.


Anonymous said...

Wonderful review. :) I think this book is fantastic!

Anita on May 23, 2010 at 3:47 PM said...

And aren't the covers also so cool?!

JessG on May 24, 2010 at 3:01 AM said...

Anita-that's actually why I picked it up in the first place. It makes the story look all fantasy or mythical you know? But then I read the inside and went, "I think I can try this" and was very impressed. If you look closely you see I believe you can see like a knife and scissors and I think even types of food. That may be just me, but it's all hidden in the ice of the cover. Very cleverly hidden and well done.

JessG on May 24, 2010 at 3:01 AM said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Monique on May 27, 2010 at 2:17 PM said...

Great Review, cant wait to read this book, its on my list Monique, xx

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