Wintergirls (Laurie Halse Anderson)

Time completed: 9:30 p.m.  

Date completed: 1/25/2011

Days to read: approximately 8


Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson is the most difficult YA book I have read. I don’t mean that in the this-was-boring-and-I-kept-putting-in-down sort of way. Even though, for me, the eight days it took to finish this book might suggest just that. No, Wintergirls was the most difficult YA book I’ve read to date because of the subject-matter.

Lia is anorexic. Her best friend, Cassie, has just died. alone. in a motel room.

This novel deals with eating disorders, body image issues, family malfunctions, mental instability, and what is, essentially, attempted suicide. Not only are the struggles Lia faces complex, the narration grows in complexity as Lia’s brain is slowly starved to death.  Her grasp on reality fades, and the narration is a reflection of that deterioration. Really, the narration is what made this novel so difficult to read, much more than tough content.  Because of the narration, the reader isn’t just reading Lia’s story; the reader is experiencing Lia’s pain and deterioration.  As Lia’s mental awareness begins to decrease, the readers becomes more and more aware of her self-perception altering.  The narration is so intimately linked to Lia’s mind, as a reader, I was equal parts sympathizing with her and terrified for her.

The side-effects of reading this novel were many. I had very terrible nightmares along the same lines as Lia’s; I found myself flipping food packages over to check the calorie count; I was torn between wanting to eat every time I picked up the book, and not wanting to touch food for hours. I was so close to Lia’s mind, it was like she could touch my mind. This is why I had to take eight days to read Wintergirls.  The side-effects were, however, completely worth reading the novel. Like all of Anderson’s characters and stories, Lia and her struggles is meant to be more than words on a page; it physically becomes a part of the reader’s consciousness when they are reading.