Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Format: Audiobook, also available in paperback and ebook
Published: March 19 2009
Date Read: October 3 2010
Book Source: Own Audiobook
Description from the publisher:
“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 have owned the audiobook of Wintergirls for awhile, but kept putting off listening to it due to the difficult subject matter. I have some experience with eating disorders, and with watching it effect those around me. However, after reading Speak recently, I was ready to give Wintergirls a try. I’m glad I finally got through it! It is a tough read for sure, but very well done.
Lia’s head is a dark place to be in. She is suffering from anorexia, and after being hospitalized is being watched and weighed carefully by her family. Her former best friend Cassie just died and Lia is working through the guilt, wondering if she could have been able to save her. Lia’s friendship with Cassie is detailed through flashbacks. They enabled each other on their quest to be the skinniest. They were estranged when Cassie broke away from Lia during her recovery.
Numbers are used repeatedly in this book. Obsessed with her weight, Lia calculates the calories in every bite she intakes. She eats the minimum amount to satisfy her family, and so that she can drive and attend school without passing out. She is extremely critical of herself when she eats too much, and exercises furiously to burn the calories she has consumed. As Lia meets each goal weight, she sets a new goal. She finally realizes the only weight she would ultimately be satisfied with is 0.00 pounds.
The voice actress in the audiobook does an amazing job portraying Lia’s emotions. It was hard to listen to her self hatred and downward spiral at times. In the paper version of the book, strike-throughs are used throughout the text to convey Lia’s internal struggles. In the audiobook, a low beeping sound is used in place of the strike-through technique. The sound effects are effective in setting the mood for the story. At the beginning of each chapter a number is read, which I believe refers to Lia’s weight fluctuations.
Wintergirls is disturbing and realistic, and an accurate portrayal of someone suffering from an eating disorder. As a parent, it is sad and terrifying to read and will worry me for some time.
You can read more information about Wintergirls on the author’s website.