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Sunday, May 24, 2009

Review - Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson


Inside cover:

“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.

My review: Recently I read Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, and I was quite literally blown away. Laurie Halse Anderson truly has a way with words and with connecting the reader with her characters. I became an instant fan, and quickly started looking for more books. I knew about Wintergirls already, so I snatched it up and dove in.

First I do want to say that I read this as both a parent and as a woman who once suffered with anorexia from sophmore year in high school until I was in my mid 20s. I wanted to see how the characters were portrayed. I wanted to see what has changed since I was young. I also wanted to see if this was a book that I thought a parent could read for insight. Let's just say...things have CHANGED! Not so much in the body image thing. I think the girls I knew had the same desire to be thin as the girls portrayed in this book, but seeing how the internet has also impacted this problem was scary.

This is not always easy to read. And this is weird to say, because it is very easy to read, but the subject matter is disturbing. I am soooo glad this book was written and I would hope that many parents pick this book up. I think that Lia's story can really open up the reader's mind to what goes on inside the mind of a person dealing with anorexia and for that matter cutting. Obviously this is a work of fiction, but Lia definitely comes to life with clarity. Lia was a wreck, a total freakin' train wreck, and there was no doubt about her damage. I could feel her confusion and I so desperately wanted to shake her, but at the same time I could understand how she got to where she was. When life around you is full of chaos, chaos disguised as control can be the one thing that quiets the storm.

It was very hard seeing Lia get away with ways of hiding her problem. I was a little shocked about how easy it was. It made sense though. As a parent we often want things to be better so badly that we are willing to accept almost anything from our children. Lia's parents seemed to have allowed her to continue with her anorexia by not challenging her, because they did not want to alienate her. They were willing to believe the illusion she gave them from the weigh ins on the scale that she could manipulate to the quarters she sewed in her robe, Lia was a master at deception by the scale numbers. Another thing that I thought was awesome was that although Lia's step mom was monitoring Lia and her eating, she was restricting fattening foods like ice cream from her little girl. This was like a huge alarm in my head, and I am glad that the author included it. I think sometimes people really do go overboard on the "don't eat that!" thing without just teaching their chldren balance.

Wintergirls also shows how people with eating disorders can influence each other. The one thing that I clearly recall from my own group therapy sessions was comparing myself to the other girls and feeling like I needed to work harder to be thinner. At least I only had group therapy. I didn't have any school friends going through it or best friends dealing with anorexia. I was the odd one out. I have to say though, that I did get inspiration from several books about girls suffering with eating disorders. They were my role models. In Wintergirls we see Lia go to a very underground message board where the people dealing with anorexia encourage one another. THAT is a lot for a parent to fight.

All in all, I think Wintergirls was extremely well done. I am so glad that it was written and I do encourage other people to read this great book. It is a well-written story about a truth. Wintergirls is full of believable and flawed characters. The story unfolds in a very believeable fashion and leaves the reader with a clear conclusion. I think it clearly shows the trials and spirals of eating disorders and other disorders.


Gwendolyn B. said...

Wow. I'm so glad to know you made it through that hellish experience. Now YOU are a worthy inspriration!

Kaye said...

You have great courage reading that book after what you went through. As a mother who almost lost a daughter to this insidious disease, I could not read this book. Yes, call me wimpy. I am, but even to this day, the word anorexia brings the pain flooding back to me. Memories of my youngest daughter restrained to the bed because her heart was so weak she couldn't even get up come back to me in a rush. Is there any parent point of view in the book?

Staci said...

This is a wonderful review especially sharing your own traumatic experience with us!! I love Anderson, not many YA authors do it better than her. This book is important for all the reasons you listed and so much more!! I can't wait for her next book.

kalea_kane said...

Thanks, Gwendolyn. I appreciate it. Part of the reason I really felt compelled to read it was my own experience, but I was unsure of whether I should share it or not. :)

kalea_kane said...

Kaye, I can understand why you would want to stay away from it. I think if I had to go through the torment of seeing your baby go through what she did.

There was some parent perspective directed at Lia, but as far as getting into their minds, no.

I am so sorry for what you went through.


kalea_kane said...

Staci, I have to say I have definitely found a new fave. :)