17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Chilling. Even many days after reading WINTERGIRLS, I still shiver when I think about this book.
Lia has struggled with an eating disorder before. Her parents think that she is getting better, but she is just fooling everyone. When Cassie, who used to be her best friend, dies, Lia spirals out of control again.
She eats less and less and begins seeing Cassie's ghost everywhere.
WINTERGIRLS explores the world of eating disorders with vivid, horrifying detail.
Even though this book was really creepy, it was also spectacular. I had never understood how or why some people began to have eating disorders, and this book gave a spectacular insight into their state of mind.
Reviewed by: Emily Ann
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Lia is a recovering anorexic who lives with her father, step mother and step sister. But Lia has no interest in recovering. She worked too hard to be this thin and too hard in fooling her family into believing that she's getting better. Her dream is to weigh 95 pounds and she's determined to achieve it.
One night her former best friend Cassie phones her 33 times. Cassie and Lia haven't spoken in over a year - not since Cassie blamed her for her own bulimia. Angry and resentful, Lia refuses to call Cassie back and the next day, discovers that Cassie died alone in a motel room. As Lia tries to come to terms with what happened to Cassie, she finds herself becoming more and more a wintergirl - someone who is only half in this world and half in the world of the dead. Then Cassie starts to appear to her in visions, and she's determined to bring Lia to her side ...
Anderson's novel is a searingly powerful and unflinching look at anorexia. It's not an easy read - not least because Lia also self-harms and the scenes that show her cutting herself are particularly difficult to read. Anderson brings out Lia's need for control, the dual nature of her disease - how she wants to eat and yet is scared and determined not to. There's no judgment here - Anderson is too wise to point to anorexia as having one root cause. However she does show the contributing factors - Lia's low self-esteem, the support offered by pro-anorexia internet communities, the breakdown of her parents' marriage and the criticism she felt she got from her very successful mother. At the heart of it is confusion - Lia struggles to work out who she is and can't acknowledge the truths screaming within her.
The book's formatting is used to good effect - the text and its presentation highlighting the turmoil Lia is going through and Lia's own voice is faultless. There is also a lengthy author's note at the back which discusses how Anderson came to the subject together with helplines for people touched by the issues.
This is without doubt one of the best YA novels I've read in a long time. It's true, moving and candid and it makes you think about a topic much covered in the media in an entirely new way. A must read for adults and teens alike.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
From a personal perspective, this is a book I've wanted to read for a very long time. As someone whose close friend has been battling anorexia for more than ten years, I was keen to see if this book would be accurate in its portrayal of the eating disorder and its effects on not only the sufferer, but also on the people around them. Whilst this is a `young adult' book, I would not hesitate in saying that this is a book that takes an unapologetic, no holds barred approach in showing the true pain that this illness can inflict, and as a consequence is a must-read for both teens and adults alike.
Eighteen-year-old Lia is apparently recovering from anorexia. `Apparently' as from the outset it appears she is willing to get better- only she's fooling herself and everyone around her- including her family and her doctors. Lia's only goal in life is to be thin- the less she weighs, the more in control she feels.
After Lia's former best friend is found dead, alone in a motel room, Lia is haunted by the turn of events and it only affects her behaviour more. Cassie had phoned Lia 33 times on the night before she died; only Lia never answered the phone. In order to stay strong however, Lia knows that she needs to keep control of her life- but the only way she can do that is to be as thin as possible...
I cannot stress how accurate this book was in portraying the traits of anorexics, from the tricks they use to suggest they have eaten meals (crumbs on plates, sauce around mouths etc), to the exercise during the night, to the habit of trying to fool the scales into believing they weigh more than they do and the constant excuses they make to try and avoid eating- though like Lia they try to be around food to merely punish themselves. I grew upset whilst reading this book as it hit home to me once more just how alone these sufferers must feel and how desperate they must be to try and lose more weight- seeing themselves as fat, even though they aren't. It is brutal but incredibly true to life.
The effects on Lia's family, particularly her young stepsister, were also heartbreaking but portrayed very well. At times I grew angry at Lia's selfishness, sneakiness and sheer refusal to get better- but again this was an accurate representation of the illness- as was the inclusion of Lia self-harming, and often the two go hand in hand. Also, the author mentioned Lia's habit of logging onto Pro-Anorexia websites, which are sadly becoming more and more common these days. The author has done her research so thoroughly that far from being a fictional character, Lia felt very real. This is not just a book about an eating disorder, it is a book filled with hurt, loss, anger, low self-esteem, divided families and the confusion of being a teenage girl.
I would not hesitate in recommending this book to anyone- teen or adult alike, who wants to understand the effects this eating disorder can have. I would however caution that some of the themes in the book (the self harm in particular) may be a bit upsetting- so it might be worth parents having a quick look at the story first before passing it onto their children.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 24 January 2012
I am fast becoming a huge fan of Laurie Halse Anderson. I started off reading Speak and had several books of hers
on my wish list before deciding to read wintergirls next. I loved it. I have never had an eating disorder, but as
a teenager remember going through that faze where I cut meals sometimes if I was feeling a bit fat or if someone
had said something negative. I can only be greatful that my faze didn't turn into something much worse because
reading this shows just how awful it is for someone suffereing with an eating disorder and how awful it also is for
their family and the people who love them. It's gritty and doesn't for one second glamorize the reality of it.
This author has an ability to really get inside of her characters and write about things that most people would never
want to write about. She raises the issue and I can imagine that her books have really helped people. I am next going
to read Catalyst by the same author when I have read my already far too large pile of books to be read! Definitely one
I'd recommend, not to be missed.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 8 February 2011
I loved this book so much! I don't know how to explain it, but Wintergirls is somehow different from most E.D. books out there. It's true, blunt, realistic with a thick plot.
Lia's long-time best friend, Cassie, has just passed away in a hotel bathroom. Though they haven't spoken in months, Lia feels Cassie's loss very strongly, especially because Cassie called her 33 times the night she died. Cassie starts visiting Lia, insisting she's fat and telling her to eat less. Lia, already anorexic herself and sliding back into it after two hospital stays, has no plans to recover, and does everything in her power to deceive her father, stepmother, and mother that she's still gaining weight even though she's starving herself to stay thin. As Lia continues to deprive herself and exercise away the imaginary calories, she finds herself alternating between the world of the living and the world of the dead, a true wintergirl.
Wintergirls has long been on my wishlist, even though I knew it wasn't going to be an easy read. I'll never forget going to a camp for teen Catholics and having every girl in the small group but me - all healthy, beautiful teenagers -confess to either having purged or having starved themselves. It was devastating. Lia's struggle is an unflinching look at this mindset and what really may be going on in the mind of a girl with anorexia.
As readers, we know Lia is absolutely killing herself. The symptoms are obvious, as she starts to lose touch with reality, her memory slipping, her period ending, her obsession with yellow globules of fat and calorie counting. She tries to eat less than I eat in one meal for the entire day, and if she can manage, stays even below that. It's also difficult to take because Lia self-harms and it's absolutely painful to read about someone feeling so bad that she must injure herself to feel better. It's difficult, but I think it's so necessary, because an understanding of what goes on in the minds of people feeling like this can help us to get past the society attitudes which push them in that direction.
Lia's anorexia is not down to one thing, but she's pushed into it by a variety of factors, such as people insensitive to her growth as a young adolescent, a broken home, and a mother that she feels is never happy with her. Her equally unhappy best friend Cassie helps her down the path. It's heartbreaking to read Lia's struggles, how badly she wants to eat but how she won't let herself, and even the pain she goes through when someone does force her to eat more like a normal human being. I can't even imagine feeling like that and the book brought me to tears more than once.
The other thing most striking about the book is that Lia is a teenager in a very real sense. She's needy in some ways, independent in others. Eating is very obviously the one thing in her life she can actually control - she can't fix her parents' marriage, she can't get her mother to accept her, she can't even get the grades that are expected of her. The only thing she can ensure she wins at is becoming thin, and that's what she does. How many teenagers fall into this same trap? How many are killed by it? It hurts just to think about.
Wintergirls is a must-read. This is a heartbreaking book about a problem that is very, very real. Anderson outdoes herself once again, something I think I'd better expect next time.
Lia is a girl on the verge of leaving her adolescence, and also her life. She wakes up, she goes to school, she goes home, she goes to sleep. Just like the rest of us. But one thing she misses out is the eating part of her day, and after Cassie, her recently estranged best friend is found dead in a motel room, she finds her self once again engulfed by a life of nothing but making sure the scales read closer to zero. it's a powerful look into the life of a relapser, and just how overbearing those little voices in your head can be.
At first I was a little dubious - sometimes the teen fiction style can be a bit weak in depth, but I loved the way this was written. It certainly evokes some emotion and seems very true to the core. I loved the stylistic switching from what Lia was thinking to her superficial actions; the sense of character is really great. There's also a layout aid about two thirds of the way in which is really, surprisingly, powerful. This book has clearly been well researched and thought of, as the harrowing realities of an eating disorder are subtly weaved into the characters without being blatant and fairytale. it's hard not to feel the pain that Lia is experiencing, and because of the natural intrigue in us all, once you start this book you'll really want to read on.
There's somewhat of a cult genre with mental illness in books, and if like me you naturally gravitate towards them, Wintergirls is definitely one to add to the bookshelf.
on 3 June 2014
I want to start off by saying this is probably so far the best book on Anorexia I've ever read (albeit I haven't read many yet) it is a very touching, powerful and thought provoking story of a young girl suffering in the clutches of a terrible illness.
This is a must read book for all teens and young adult men and women as Anorexia is a very serious illness and more should be done to make people aware of it.
The book progresses rather slowly but in a good way, it unfolds and is very realistic in those senses, it deals with all kinds of traumatic things but not in such a graphic way and comes to a good ending. It is one of those books that might stick with you for a long time after reading. It is written in the sense of being horribly graphic, upsetting and even frightening, however, the way it is written softens it enough to not disturb people, especially younger ones.
I'm 20 reading this and I didn't think it was too young, it is suitable for teens and adults, although some parents may want to give it a check through before letting younger ones read it.
I really enjoyed this book and hope that is does just that, brings hope to people suffering from or that know someone suffering from the illness. It has amazing insight and really opens your eyes to the tragic world of Anorexia.
This is a book filled with pain. The distress that Lia, Cassie and their families go through oozes from every page - oozes like the cuts Lia makes to help her deal with her feelings of self loathing and confusion.
Depression, self harm, anorexia, family dysfunction - all are laid bare in brittle prose that reaches out to the reader and grabs them with a bony hand. As a description of the inner thoughts of someone so ill they want to starve themselves, it is powerful, illuminating - and sometimes hard to read.
That said, it is an important book to read, but it won't be suitable for everyone. Although the cover suggests 12+, it will require a certain maturity from the reader to be able to cope with the strong feelings and sometimes graphic descriptions of cutting and anorectic behaviour. I also think parents (especially parents of girls) should read this so they can re-familiarise themselves with the pressures of adolescence. The only anti-recommendation I would make would be for people who have gone through an eating disorder themselves - it may be triggering.
A powerful, gripping read.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
This is a very powerful, emotional book about two teenage girls with weight issues.
The main character, Lia, has serious anorexia. At 18, she has already been hospitalised twice but still resisits all efforts to encourage her to eat. She equates 'empty' with 'strong'. Lia's childhood friend, Cassie, suffers with bulimia, she binges and then brings up, vast quantities of food. As the book opens, Cassie has been found dead in a motel room, alone, having called Lia's mobile 33 times. In recent months they had drifted apart and Lia did not want to speak to Cassie, now she must deal with the guilt that she was not there for her friend when she was needed.
As Lia struggles to come to terms with Cassie's death, she becomes thinner by the day. She uses a host of tricks to convince her ever vigilant mother, father and step-mother that she is eating - leaving crumbs on her plate, pleading a recent meal, cutting food into tiny pieces and picking at it until they have lost interest. She spends sleepless nights on the stepper and does hundreds of crunches in an attempt to burn off more calories that she consumes, she knows the calorific value of every food. Thin is good - she wants to be the thinnest girl in the school.
By the time she is reaching her goal she has started to fall asleep in class, faint and halucinate.
On top of this she is self harming, an activity that becomes progessively more destructive throughout the book.
The author probes Lia's background in an attempt to provide explanations for her behaviour, her parents' divorce, her father's remarriage, her mother's devotion to her job. But she also has a support network and resons to live - particularly her young step-sister, Emma.
There are some clever devices used by the author; particularly Lia's 'bad' thoughts - crossed out and surplanted by 'good' thoughts. (Which, sadly, I can't reproduce here).
However, it was an issue with the way the book was written that made this a four star read for me - sometimes it was a bit too wacky, a bit too teenage perhaps. Given that this is the target audience, then fine, but as an adult reader it alienated me slightly. Putting that aside though, I'm sure this will be a useful addition to the eating disorder novels that more and more teenagers will relate to and I hope it will help some to see it for what it really is - a slow death.