Friday, 4 January 2013

Wintergirls - Laurie Halse Anderson

“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.


Frightening is the only way to describe this book, it is a spine chilling horror story of the worst sort: the real one. Frighteningly poetic, seamless, somehow beautiful and to say it's deep is the understatement of the millennium. The characters are entrancing and you as the reader quickly become engrossed in the almost rhythmic words of the book. The narrative is immersive, but not suffocating, and you quickly find yourself seeing through Lia's eyes. 

No matter your knowledge, opinion or experience of eating disorders I think the main thing this book offers is a true 'eye-opener' to the mind of an anorexic. The awareness this book has raised is amazing, and it has (in my opinion) glided over the risky waters of 'pro-ana'. There is never any illusion that anorexia is great, or a life choice, or any of the popular misconceptions. It is plain and clear that Cassie and Lia are stricken by a flesh burning disease, not a radical diet. 

But the book makes you forget all the medical side. The engrossing narrative takes you deeper into living with the disease, where all the symptoms and feelings are just part of life. This avoidance of clearly stated medical morals against eating disorders is possibly why the book tends to be misunderstood as being pro anorexia. It isn't though, because never is a single benefit of life with an eating disorder portrayed (maybe because there aren't any). The book instead looks deeper at the psychological affects of eating disorders. Winter girls isn't as depressing as it sounds though, with other key elements like friendship and family making it more up-beat. I think the world has a lot to learn from this book and it deserves a possibly controversial five stars.  

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