Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Publication Date: 2009
Number of Pages: 278
Awards: ALA Teens’ Top 10, ALA/YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers
Genre/Subgenre: Realistic Fiction
After the death of her best friend from an eating disorder, Lia must decide between her own life or death.
Lia’s life takes a turn when her former best friend, Cassie, dies from complications relating to bulimia. Lia, who has anorexia, does not want to acknowledge her feelings about Cassie’s death – particularly because Cassie reached out to her the night she died and Lia ignored her. Instead, Lia continues to pretend she has recovered, all while doing everything she can to lower her weight. Her drive becomes even more intense when she begins seeing visions of Cassie, who blames Lia for her death, everywhere she goes. When ghost-Cassie begins trying to convince Lia to starve herself to death and join Cassie, Lia’s mental and physical health reaches a crisis point. After nearly killing herself, Lia must decide whether to finally acknowledge her ghosts and try to get healthy or to let herself slip into death.
Like Laurie Halse Anderson’s other young adult novels, Wintergirls depicts difficult issues faced by teens in a realistic and age-appropriate way. This novel is well-written and depicts the struggles of a young woman with an eating disorder in prose that is both beautiful and heartbreaking. My only hesitation with this book is that some passages could be triggering for a person with an eating disorder – I would recommend this novel with discretion.
Why I Chose the Book:
I enjoyed Laurie Halse Anderson’s novels Speak and Fever 1793 when I read it as a teen, and I thought that if anyone could write sensitively and realistically about teen eating disorders, it would be her. She has a strong gift for writing about difficult subject matter.
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Skinny by Ibi Kaslik
The Stone Girl by Alyssa B. Sheinmel
Book Talk Ideas
Wintergirls would fit in with programming around National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. Programming could include a discussion on the novel and a screening of a film on eating disorders, such as the PBS documentary Perfect Illusions.
1. How does the narrative style of the novel impact what we understand as readers? Why is it important that the story is told directly from Lia’s thoughts?
2. Why does Lia call herself a “winter girl”? What does this term mean in the context of the novel and Lia’s situation?
Anderson, L.H. (2009). Wintergirls. New York: Viking.
Goodreads (2014). Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson. Retrieved from https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/5152478-wintergirls?from_search=true
PBS (2003). Perfect Ilusions: Eating Disorders and the Family. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/perfectillusions/index.html
“Wintergirls.” NoveList K-8. EBSCO, 2014. Web. 14 Apr. 2014. <http://0-web.a.ebscohost.com.catalog.sjlibrary.org/novpk8/detail?vid=4&sid=908720de-b98b-4e84-a60c-f88e9a9aabed%40sessionmgr4002&hid=4212&bdata=JnNpdGU9bm92cGs4LWxpdmU%3d#db=njh&UI=301549>.