Sunday, August 9, 2009

BR: Wintergirls

by Laurie Halse Anderson

Wintergirl. That's what Lia is, seemingly stuck between two worlds, constantly freezing, too skinny, counting calories, not eating. Lia is anorexic, sent to the hospital twice already, she lives with her father and stepmother, but isn't recovering. She's haunted by ghosts of her best friend who had died, and is constantly battling inner demons of her own. People around her who love her are trying to help, but she refuses to get better. Wintergirls is a haunting, heartbreaking novel about a girls difficult road to recovery.

The novel and the writing were absolutely amazing. It takes me insided Lia's head, her thoughts, truths, and the fact that she can't get over her best friend Cassie's (who was bulimic) death. She refuses to let herself eat, calling herself strong when she eats 800 calories and exhausts herself exercising. Anderson has a way of writing in such a unique manner, not unlike her other novel, Speak.

Some quotes gave me shiviers, such as:
"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 any of it... Someone just ripped off my eyelids." (4)

"For one moment we are not failed tests and broken condoms and cheating on essays; we are crayons and lunch boxes and swinging so high our sneakers punch holes in the clouds. For one breath everything feels better." (15)
Things like these were so haunting and powerful to me, and it kept me enchanted. The story isn't pretty, it isn't a fairytale, but I think that's what makes it feel so real. Lia's struggles are so 'in your face' that you can't help but become emotionally connected. Her life is far from perfect, and despite how her family and loved ones keep reaching out she doesn't want to get better. That's the problem. Cheating on weigh-ins. Pretending to eat food she hasn't. Detesting her own body, although she is nothing but skin and bones. Lia is so complex, and I felt Anderson really wrote about her condition in a convincing, realistic way.

She meets a boy, but again, that boy is real. He isn't the knight in shining armor, the boy who makes her all better. Lia's step-sister, I feel, is a bit like her anchor. She tries for Emma, genuinely cares about her, which surprised me a bit (usually, these main characters hate their 'perfect, nice' stepsisters). The bond Lia feels with Emma is well written.

Lia also conflicts with her mother, who she feels is trying to strangle her. When a boy tells her her mother is 'reaching out', she responds "That's not reaching out, that's choking," a line which describes Lia's thoughts perfectly. She doesn't want her mom running her life, and refuses allow her mother to help her with her problem.

I need to comment on the prose, because I think this is what makes the novel amazing. Many authors have tackled the issue of anorexia, but somehow, I think Anderson makes it one step more intimate, more real. The inner battles Lia has, like the voice telling her "remain in control, stay strong, lose more, weight less," and the crossouts in the text about thoughts Lia pushes away. There is the constant reminder of Cassie's death, and the fact that she feels somewhat responsible, and sees Cassie beckoning to her to join her in death, to further starve herself.

The dark writing makes everything work. It makes parts heartbreaking, and I'll admit, some parts I teared up. I felt Lia's fight, her emotions, her battles. Everything was just written perfectly, it's Printz worthy, well done Mrs. Anderson.

9.5/10 - because it is brilliant. Anderson's writing was impeccable, the plot was good, and most of all, I felt Lia was unbelievably real. I couldn't put down the novel, despite some really dark and disturbing parts, and the prose kept me hooked. It gives a glimpse of the Lia's problems, but isn't overdone or sugar-coated. I loved Speak, and people who liked that will probably enjoy Wintergirls. If you hated Speak, I would still recommend it, but I'm not sure if you'll like it as much, the writing is similar, which I liked (and which you might not like). Be warned though, the novel isn't happy, bright, hopeful; it's dark, humorless, but worth every moment.


1 comment:

  1. Really really great review! Thanks for linking me!


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