Wintergirls is a short novel about two girls, Lia and Cassie, who both struggle with eating disorders. Anorexia and bulimia are both heavy topics in this book, and readers should be aware of this before they read it. Lia is our protagonist, and the story is told from her point of view. This is important because a lot of the book takes place in her head, following her stream of consciousness.
The story begins on what at first appears to be a normal day for Lia. It consists of her mentally calculating tiny bites of food. We see how she deceives the people she lives with about her eating habits. Lia pretends to eat. She cooks and creates dirty dishes, then puts crumbs on her face. We see a bit of how her disordered mind works. Her thoughts are often jumbled and unorganized. Because of this, it takes a while for the reader to put together what is going on. Eventually, we realize that her friend Cassie has committed suicide, and that the night of her death she called Lia 33 times. The news seems not to affect Lia outwardly, but internally she blames herself and the way she is for this traumatic event. Throughout the course of the book we follow Lia as she deals with her guilt, struggles with her disease, and tries to find out what happened to Cassie.
The author’s writing is very poetic and lyrical. The way Lia perceives life is distinctly different from how I see the world. This could be a symptom of her disease (anorexia) or a result of it. It could also just be who she is- a poet at heart. There are moments of beauty and moments of terror. Both are detailed and imaginatively described.
Lia seems to hate what she has done to herself, and wishes she had cancer instead. But she keeps feeding (or not feeding) the beast. She loses herself in fantasy books which she describes as “a Times Roman 10-point barricade” to the world around her.
“When I was a real girl…” is a phrase repeated often and refers to the time before Lia was anorexic or possibly before it became so detrimental to her health.
Lia deals with her friend’s suicide and wonders if she could have stopped it. She begins cutting herself to help with the stress. Her weight continues to drop. Hallucinations seem to come often. Descriptions of what she experiences move the plot along, and are also some of the most beautiful and worrying parts of the story. From an outside perspective we realize that as she becomes closer and closer to death, her body is shutting down and causing the hallucinations. Eventually, she gets so close to dying that she has to make a choice to go with Cassie (die) or choose life and get help.
The novel spirals down into darkness the more you read, but it is worthwhile in the end. Overall, I found this book to be exquisitely written and immensely intriguing. Coupled with a trigger warning, this book can be very insightful into the lives of those with eating disorders.
- Title: Wintergirls
- Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
- Paperback: 304 pages
- Publisher: Speak
- Language: English
- ISBN13: 978-0142415573
- URL: Amazon Goodreads