Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

wintergirlsWintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson 2009 278 Pages 5/5
"We held hands when we walked down the gingerbread path into the forest, blood dripping from our fingers. We danced with witches and kissed monsters. We turned us into wintergirls, and when she tried to leave, I pulled her back into the snow because I was afraid to be alone." (p. 99)
Wintergirls tackles the issue of eating disorders, and it does so perfectly. Not beautifully (though the writing is beautiful), not in a pretty way, not in a candy-coated way, but perfectly. Lia is a young girl whose family has been torn apart. Her father left her mother, a somewhat distant, yet loving doctor, after having an affair with another woman. He married this woman, Jennifer, who actually turns out not to be too bad and brought a stepsister into Lia's life, Emma, who Lia loves. On top of the adjustments required of this transition, Lia's ex-best friend Cassie has just died...alone...after calling Lia 33 times begging for help but not getting it. Lia and Cassie were best friends for years. They pledged to be skinny together, Cassie taking the route of bulimia, throwing up her food after binging, and Lia taking the route of annorexia, restricting what she ate. As they grew apart, these issues remained. We follow Lia in her 18th year as she fights to keep control of the only thing she seemingly has control over, her weight. Along with the restricting diet, Lia struggles through hallucinations and urges to cut. And it erupts into a nightmare that only she can understand, until she loses control of that herself. I think this is Anderson's best work yet. The book has an unconventional writing style. It's told in seperate entries by Lia and we as the reader actually experience the thoughts as they go through her head. It's not an easy read. It's gut-wrenching at times and there's a climactic moment that left me nearly speechless. It's powerful. Very powerful. And I think it's all very accurate. I don't know if I've ever mentioned this before, but at the psychiatric hospital I work at, we have an eating disorders unit. It's world known and we have people come from all over the country and other countries for treatment. Eating disorders are a very real issue that quickly takes control over people. Not just women, we have males that come too. Research has shown that it stems not so much from a body image problem (though that's certainly a HUGE issue), but it's mostly an issue of control. When people experience traumatic events and seemingly lose control of their lives, they find that what goes in and out of their body is the only thing that they can control. Like Anderson's characters, the majority of our clients also cut or use other self mutilative behaviors. It's sad to see some of these people. I think the worst case I've seen is a girl that was 5'7" and 65 pounds. Yet she still wanted to lose weight. I hope that Anderson's book is a tool to some of these people. That it helps them towards healing. That it gives them something to relate too and a voice to ask for help. This was truly a powerful read and my hat's off to Laurie Halse Anderson for tackling this issue. Other Views and Opinions: Becky's Book Reviews Shooting Stars Mag Presenting Lenore A Patchwork of Books The Well-Read Child YAnnabe Cheryl's Book Nook The Story Siren Maw Books Lauren's Crammed Bookshelf {Insert Book Title Here}

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