Friday, April 24, 2009

Review: Wintergirls

Summary: “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 are best friends, wintergirls frozen in matchstick bodies, competitors in a deadly contest to see who can be the skinniest. But what comes after size zero and size double-zero? When Cassie succumbs to the demons within, Lia feels she is being haunted by her friend’s restless spirit.

In her most emotionally wrenching, lyrically written book since the multiple-award-winning Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson explores Lia’s descent into the powerful vortex of anorexia, and her painful path toward recovery. -- Viking Children's

There has been so much buzz about WINTERGIRLS by Laurie Halse Anderson that I knew I had to read it sooner rather than later. Fortunately for me, I reserved it at the library before it was even in our library system; and I was the first one to read it -- I love it when that happens. I picked it up while I was waiting in the car for my daughter and started reading it. Big mistake because I couldn't put it down. This book is GRIPPING and very INTENSE!

I hesitate to use the word "love" or "enjoy" when talking about a book that deals with eating disorders, but I was completely caught up in Lia's story and I definitely will recommend it to everyone! Lia is without a doubt an amazing character and I think her story will remain in my thoughts for a very long time. I And while I don't have a personal experience with an eating disorder, I felt that so much of WINTERGIRLS was very real and honest. I'd love to hear what some teens think about this story because I can't imagine a more powerful book about this issue.

Lia is a very complex character to say the least. She has a horrific body image about herself, so bad that she actually starves herself. I do understand how young girls can get caught up in their desire to be thin because of all the messages they receive from society. I guess what I didn't realize was how these serious eating disorders are really the effects of a lot of different mental issues. Like many teens, Lia felt as if her life was out of control (school, friends, parents' divorce, etc.) and I'm guessing that she felt as if she could totally control that one aspect of her life -- eating. I found it so interesting that Lia perceived herself as having so much strength and self control when she turned down food.

While reading this book, I felt as if I learned a lot about the extent to which young girls would go to hide their disease. I was especially blown away by how much of Lia's life was spent trying to outwit her parents -- wearing baggy clothes, sewing quarters into her robe so she'd weigh more, tinkering with the scale, hiding food, etc. Another thing that I found fascinating (and disturbing) is that there are Internet support groups for anorexics and bulimics -- they actually encourage other girls not to eat. As I read this novel, I just kept thinking about what a sad state it is when young girls to be starving themselves to death. What a huge waste!

This is the first book that I've read by Laurie Halse Anderson, but I can definitely say that it won't be my last. I was blown away by not only the story she told, but how she told it. Her writing style is wonderful and is so incredibly effective as Lia's voice. I felt like every word in this book was deliberate used to evoke a certain feeling. Watch this video clip of the author discussing WINGERGIRLS:

My daughter is entirely too young to read this book; however, I want her to read it in a few years because I think it will open up discussion between us about her body image. Right now, she is extremely thin; and recently has become very self-conscious about it. She's only 9 1/2 years old, but I can already see how important it is to her how others perceive her. And I'm sure it's only going to get worse -- I remember what I was like when I was a teen.

WINTERGIRLS would make a perfect mother-daughter book club selection. Not only would the book be fascinating to discuss, but I would hope that it might alert some moms and girls to the serious nature of eating disorders. If nothing else, this book could be the thing needed to start some conversations about self image and healthy eating. I would also hope that it might make some teens examine not only their own behavior, but the behavior of their friends before a tragedy occurs like the one in WINTERGIRLS.


Meghan said...

The support websites are very scary. I watched a documentary recently and the girl featured talked about how they encouraged her to be thin, posted pictures of their "thinspiration" celebrities, and all celebrated when they starved themselves. It's terrifying and I'm so glad I never had a problem with eating. I always worry that if I have a daughter someday, she will (worse because it runs in the family), and I won't know how to deal with it.

Thanks for the review, I really want to read this.

bermudaonion said...

Great review, Julie. This is in my TBR pile and I'm looking forward to reading it. I think our society puts a lot of pressure on females - as teens and as adults. I wish we could all learn to accept ourselves (and everyone else) the way we are.

Lauren said...

I'm really excited to read this book. I read most of Anderson's previous works while in grad school and love her ability to tell a story, even a tragic one. I've had a few friends suffer from anorexia; I saw what they went through. Because of that, I was a bit tentative at first to read this. I didn't want to necessarily go through it again. However, I know Anderson will tell the story wonderfully and am really intrigued.

Karlie said...

This sounds like a scary but gripping book. I'm always interested in psych books. Thanks for the great review.

Shelly B said...

Great review! I was captivated by this one as well. You are right on when you say it is GRIPPING. Definitely a must read for teenage girls!

Jen - devourer of books said...

Fantastic review. This book was just so gut-wrenching, wasn't it?

Anonymous said...

My daughter's 9, too. But I don't think I'm ready to read this.

By the way, I passed an award on to you here.

Beth F said...

Great review -- this is such an important topic. I've been on the waiting list for the audio of this book from my library and it came in yesterday! Hope to be reading to it this week. Girls really need to know that there are all sorts of healthy and beautiful body types.

Bookfool said...

Wow, lucky you! I'm almost never first in line, although I did manage to get a pristine copy of The Help via Paperback Swap for signing up early. I'm anxious to read this one, but I don't think I'll see a copy for a while!

Darlene said...

Great review Julie. I've seen a few reviews on this novel and I'd love to read it one of these days. I agree with Kathy, it would be nice if we could all accept ourselves as we are. Then there wouldn't be so much pressure to be something thinner or prettier--there always seems to be something better to be instead of yourself and it has to be really scary for young girls growing up.

S. Krishna said...

AMAZING review - I so want to read this one!