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review: Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

Written By: Word Nerd - Mar• 26•13


Laurie Halse Anderson


Release Date: March 19, 2009

Lia and Cassie are best friends, wintergirls frozen in fragile bodies, competitors in a deadly contest to see who can be the thinnest. But then Cassie suffers the ultimate loss-her life-and Lia is left behind, haunted by her friend’s memory and racked with guilt for not being able to help save her. In her most powerfully moving novel since Speak, award-winning author Laurie Halse Anderson explores Lia’s struggle, her painful path to recovery, and her desperate attempts to hold on to the most important thing of all: hope.



Did you read the previous sentence? Do you understand that this review will contain spoilers? SPOILERS AHEAD!

I picked up this book on the recommendation of a friend during my search to find titles with the same emotional pull as John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. (Someday I will review it, or Teen Nerd will review it, once we can discuss it without bursting into tears.)  Normally I would not read a book about eating disorders because they just make me mad.  It is such a complicated disease – there are mental components and physical components, you can have one or both, you can be morbidly obese and anorexic, you can eat 5000 calories a day and still be, technically speaking, anorexic.  Throw in bulimia, orthorexia and all the other mutations…how can you treat it accurately in 80,000 words?

I feel like this book veers dangerously close to being a “how to” manual for eating disorders.  Yes, we see horrible consequences from Cassie’s bulimia/alcohol abuse and Lia’s anorexia.  Cassie’s painful and lonely death is heartwrenching.  But, it isn’t enough to compensate for the tricks of the trade that are discussed.  Tricks, I will add, that would never work for someone who has been to inpatient care twice, but would prove useful to someone just starting down that dangerous path. The truth is, Lia likely would not have made it out of her car wreck without fractures caused by the de-mineralization in her bones.  Her hair would be dull and falling out, she would be in near constant pain from pushing her body beyond the fuel she was providing.  And the plotting, the schemes?  Clear thought is one of the first things to go in dehydration and starvation.

The best thing I can say about this book is that (YES, ANOTHER SPOILER ALERT!) in the end, Lia seems to come around and realize that she is slowly killing herself.  She will enter inpatient treatment for a third time– this time, with a changed attitude.

My verdict:  Skip it.  Perhaps others see this book as a cautionary tale; I see it as a training manual.

If you, or someone you love, is dealing with body issues and/or eating disorders, please visit here to find help.


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