Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Wintergirls Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Imagine a girl with thick, dark hair with a face that you know could be beautiful, but instead she has a haunted, empty look in her eyes – a look so disconcerting that you can’t keep her gaze because you know there’s something wrong in her life. Then you notice her collarbone jutting out, threatening to break the skin and you realize how unbearably thin she is. 94 pounds at 5’5’’, and still when that girl looks in the mirror, she sees cellulite, misshapen thighs, and failure. Anderson’s “Wintergirls” is two hundred plus pages of looking that painfully skinny girl and the fine line she walks between life and death. Not only is our main character, Lia, anorexic, but she is also a cutter – using incisions from sharp objects to release the pain and guilt she feels inside over a friend’s recent death and over her failure to be thin enough.

As a young adult, I would have devoured this book because it would have seemed tragic and dramatic. As an adult, a friend, and a teacher, I reluctantly turned each page because there are girls who live like this and who have almost given their life away in pursuit of a few less pounds on their already emaciated frame. I did not love the book like I loved Anderson’s “Speak”, but I appreciated her sensitivity and her raw approach. The story’s resolution was unfulfilling, but most stories about eating disorders are. This is Anderson’s best book in years with clever writing and clever narrative structure, but I cannot bring myself to rate it higher than a three. There’s something about that disconcerting look into that girl’s eyes that leaves me thinking this reads too much like a how-to on being anorexic rather than a being a “you’re beautiful just the way you are” story. Whether you read it or not is purely your choice, but I would not put this in the hands of an impressionable young teenage girl.

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