So I’m going to start a few feature where once a week I will post on a YA title that I think is absolutely kick a$$ 🙂 This week I HAVE to post on Laurie Halse Anderson’s newest novel, WINTERGIRLS because I just finished it in less than 24 hours, and it absolutely blew me away.
“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.
I cannot express how much this novel knocked me out. Anderson is clearly writing at the top of her game–every paragraph, every word choice is stunningly effective at creating and embellishing the often claustrophobic world of anorexia, bulimia, and self mutilation. Much of the story is told in flashbacks, and the technique kept me on the edge of my seat, wanting to know what would happen next. This book is beautifully written. Did I mention that’s it’s beautifully written? Because it is. In fact, this book comes closer to breaking the form of the novel and dissolving into pure, heartwrenching poetry than ANY young adult title written in verse that I have ever read. Plain and simple, Anderson is an artist. I love the way that Cassie haunts Lia in the book, giving a name and face to Lia’s anorexia and self destructive behavior that threatens to completely overtake her. I also thought that the winter imagery that inflects the book was a particularly apt way of describing the effects of an eating disorder, not only on the physical body, but the mind as well. Lia’s thoughts are veritably frozen–she cannot get past her issues with food, issues which are intrinsically linked with the bulimia-related death of her best friend. I won’t give away the ending, but I literally could not rip myself away from this book during the final ten pages–I was absolutely riveted, I also really enjoyed the fact that this book really wasn’t about a boy/girl love interest per se—-there’s a cute guy in it, sure, but if this novel is a love story, it chronicles the deep affection between two best friends, and the ramifications of their intense relationship with food–and with each other. I am not even nearly doing this book justice with this review, but know this: WINTERGIRLS is the reason that I’ve begun this feature–I was compelled to write about it, to urge others to read it. As a private school teacher, and as a woman living in contemporary society, I have seen eating disorders up close and personal, and they are not pretty. I haven’t read a book since Marya Hornbacher’s WASTED that does this complicated subject justice, and WINTERGIRLS definitely delivers because it does not simply scratch the surface by offering easy, pat answers to complicated problems, it goes far into the depths of a disordered psyche, and lets us experience the world through her fractured, isolated vision. As readers, Anderson allows us to walk in Lia and Cassie’s shoes and experience their transition from typical American teens, to frozen wintergirls, hell-bent on destroying the one thing they cannot abide—themselves.
A must-read. Kristi over at The Story Siren said it best–as difficult as this book is to begin, you will find it even more unbearable to contemplate stopping.