Goodreads synopsis: “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. Laurie Halse Anderson explores Lia’s descent into the powerful vortex of anorexia, and her painful path toward recovery.
As readers of this blog may already know, I am Laurie Halse Anderson’s biggest fan. I think she’s the greatest writer on the planet, and the only reason I haven’t read all of her books yet is because once I read them all, I will have no new LHA books to read, and that’s sad. My favorite is, of course, Speak, and I think it’s safe to say that Wintergirls is definitely my second favorite.
I was really torn between giving this 4 out of 5 stars and 5 out of 5. The only thing I didn’t like about this book was the excessively metaphoric language. Now, Anderson’s metaphors are amazingly beautiful, but I think they were a little overdone in this book. I understand that Lia is very disconnected from reality, but I found myself struggling to read every word and not skim through the metaphoric parts because I really just wanted to know what was actually happening. I landed, though, on 5 out of 5 stars because there are so few books that speak to me like this one did.
Lia is an amazing main character. I felt so deeply for her, and that was in part because of my own struggles with the same disorder, but also because of Anderson’s incredible writing. I also love that it was slipped in there that Lia is bisexual. (I really do love reading about characters that are just like me in ways that aren’t often represented.) I am always so impressed with Anderson’s ability to write about mental illnesses that (as far as we know) she doesn’t have. She must have the most empathetic spirit in the world, because she just gets feelings. Lia’s thoughts were very recognizable to me, even though every eating disorder is very different. I honestly felt something like relief whenever she talked about certain aspects of her disorder, because suddenly it was like I was realizing that I’m not totally alone in those feelings, and to me, that’s what Young Adult literature is about.
I also happen to have a thing for books where a central character is dead before the book even begins, like in Thirteen Reasons Why. I have no specific reason for this. I just like it. Cassie also reminded me a little bit of one of my own characters. Although, the interesting thing is, we are introduced to Cassie the ghost, but we definitely cannot assume that Cassie would actually say those things if she were a ghost, because it’s actually Lia’s disordered brain’s projection of Cassie. So we don’t get to know the real Cassie very much at all. The description of how Cassie dies, which I will not spoil because it is really excellent in a very disturbing way, is, I think, enough to make a lot of young girls stronger against the temptation to fall for bulimia. And I say “fall for” because eating disorders are like people, and often in therapy we are encouraged to see our eating disorder as a person separate from us, with a name and everything. They’re like very convincing, manipulative people who basically use peer pressure to get us to do the bad thing that they want us to do with them. Some people fall for it, some don’t, and some fall harder than others. It sounds like I’m saying people with eating disorders are weak, which is of course not true. I’m saying there’s just something different in our brains that make it easier for eating disorders to tempt us. So I think that, once again, Laurie Halse Anderson has probably saved some lives with her words, which is why she’s my absolute favorite.
Also, a wonderful friend of mine alerted me to a contest that’s currently being held by Writer’s Digest. It’s called “Dear Lucky Agent,” and all you need to do is send in the first page or so of your YA novel (and some other things, but you can read the rules yourself), which could give you a chance at getting your book published. I’m submitting mine probably today or tomorrow, so, fingers crossed!