Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

“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.” Lia and Cassie have been best friends since they were little girls. They did everything together: sleepovers, ski trips, and, as they got older, starvation. Egging each other on in a deadly competition to be the thinnest, Lia developed anorexia, while Cassie became the bulimic. Now Cassie is dead, and Lia is left to fight her silent desperate battle with food alone. Haunted by Cassie’s ghost and the painful memories of two stints in rehab that didn’t take, Lia can’t seem to muster the strength to either kick her disease once and for all or join Cassie in what sometimes feels like the blissfulness of death. Instead, she drifts through her perpetually hungry existence a wintergirl, “a ghost with a beating heart,” not quite alive and not yet dead. She has gotten so good at manipulating her divorced parents and her shrink that no one knows just how close to the edge she really is. Deep down inside, Lia wants to hang on. If she could just find something to hang on to. Using lyrical language and a touch of dark fairy dust, award-winning author Laurie Halse Anderson shines a powerful light on the secret world of eating disorders. Her characterization of Lia is morbidly compelling, and once Anderson has you in the icy grip of her persuasive prose there is no breaking her hold until you discover what Lia’s fate will be. Brutally honest and incredibly well-crafted.

29 thoughts on “Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

  1. OMG, this sounds really great! I love all of her books so far—this seems to have suspense and the YA angst all in one book.

  2. I’m looking forward to this one. I think it’ll definitely be – as you said – morbidly compelling. LHA is an amazing writer!

  3. I agree, I loved Prom, Fever and Twisted- she really got into a guy’s psyche in that one. Our students are reading Twisted for Reading Olympics and toally loving it- Go LHA!

  4. Well, I read this book in 1 day—so compelling, I ached for Cassie and Lia! Did they really know what they were doing, tyring to outdo each other in being the “thinnest”? I think Lia’s family life with her parents’ divorce was a major reason she was drawn to starve herself and like any disease, she was powerless over it. She was afraid to ask for help and didn’t trust anyone, except maybe her little sister, Emma. Even then, the Lia and her disease robbed Emma of a happy childhood. A child, like Emmas, should have remained untouched by her half sister’s anorexia. I think teens will devour this book, it will be passed around and discussed and I know a few students I would like to read this. I want them to get the message that it is evil to hate your body and it is so important to love yourself.

  5. Hi Maria,

    I think the publisher sent out many ARCs (Advanced Reviewer Copies) so lots of librarians and the students they work with got a sneak peek before the finished book came out.

  6. I got it from a visiting library student who works in a bookstore and it was a thank you for having her visit- so Jen you are right, I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek. I loved it and blogged a review on my ning and someone who suffered from this disease replied to my review is afraid this book will hurt young girls who are anorexics. Rather than learning from it, the book may incite further damaging behavior in teens. So I am worried (and since I am not an expert on this disease) that although a terrific read the book may be toxic in the wrong hands and I believe this book will be passed from hand to hand….because it is so mesmerizing…..

  7. I’m just curious, based on what was said here. If someone is either trying to recover from (or still suffering from) anorexia, would you recommend that they read this book or not?

  8. Definitely DO NOT share this with someone trying to or still recovering….those with the disease will want to compete with the character Lia…and that would be bad.

  9. Although I haven’t read this book, I’m in recovery and when I read books about eating disorders (I’m in early stages so forgive me for still having ah abit of reading them!) – I definitely have never once felt compelled to compete with them? There are thousands of girls in real life to compare/compete with, why would you do it with a fictional character?

    However from the reviews/descriptions I’ve read, it seems VERY tips and tricks filled … which can be both good and bad, because it can both teach girls tricks about how not to eat (I read a lot of reviews mentioning how sneakily she hides it such as having food splattering the microwave and not eating it or crumbs or whatever being out) and how to appear as if they’re eating … but I guess it could also “expose” some of those tricks – but depending on whether or not the people around the eating disordered person read the book as well, they might just give people more ideas for how to fuel their disorders.

    I don’t think this was in any way the author’s intent, but that’s the way I think it could be damaging to people.

  10. Jay, I think you have a very healthy attitude and that you can see many sides & that is probably why you are doing so well in recovery. I think from the person I talked to—if you are in the grips of anorexia, one is not always able to “read and understand” the message…..because one is so sick….I think Anderson was asked by so many teens to write about eating disorders and many will really step back and say “Wow!” watch what you can do to yourself if you don’t eat….and they will learn from this book, but there will be some who can’t understand Anderson’s message for what it is—- take of yourself, love yourself and you must feed yourself. I will be judicious who I recommend this book to, also because I feel this book will be passed from friend to friend… really is a compelling read. Let me know what you think, after you read it (if you do).

  11. wow, this was such a great book! ( i just finished reading it 2 minutes ago). so accurate and insirational! it’s a must read, and i don’t think that it triggers people who are still struggling with their disorders! in fact it will enlighten them and show them that sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before you can come back up again.
    i love this book!

  12. This is one of the most amazing books i have ever read. It is poetic and beautiful, but at the same time dark and treacharous. A must-read.

  13. I read it but didn’t like her starring back at me, peering through that frozen mist. I tried not to notice, or just turn away. Better yet, just slide it under some papers on my messy desk. I brought it back to the library as soon as I finished reading it . . .didn’t like her looking at me . . . Dad could have saved you Cassie, Lia too, if only they knew how, while they could still rock you to sleep they could have saved you. But all they did was sit at breakfast and watch you hover over a rice cake smeared with a microscopic layer of honey. You’re too late dad! And now there is nothing, nothing at all you can do about it except sit, watch, and suffer together. You and she are one dad: you-fail-she-fails-she-fails-you fail.

  14. Incredible read…. I read it in less than a day and began reading Yates’ Revolutionary Road (which, yes, is WONDERFUL)…. but I’ve had to put it on hold to read Wintergirls… AGAIN!!

    It is realistic and chilling.

  15. (continued– sorry!! premature post)

    The language is BEAUTIFUL… Anderson’s writing is just perfect. I wanted to pull out my highlighter and my scissors and paste passage after passage to my walls and ceiling… Just wow.

  16. While I don’t have an eating disorder, I have other disorders, and I found that while the book was extremely well-written, it made me feel miserable.

  17. I am so sorry it made you feel miserable! I have a friend who agreed with you too, great book but there is always a dark side when reading this kind of literature.

  18. I thought this story was really great. I just read another book that deals with an eating disorder, in a unique way. I don’t want to ruin the surprise in it, but it’s a different take on the subject. It’s called SAVED BY THE MUSIC, by Selene Castrovilla. I was lucky enough to get an advance copy from my librarian. You’ll love it!

  19. Amazing and sad and horrible and brutally honest. I loved and hated this book. I’d recommend to close friends, but wonder what they’d think. Wish I could read with my students, but they’re not mentally ready for this. Then again, who really is? LHA is incredible.

  20. I finished this book in a day and i loved it. The imagery is vivid and the story is gripping. I finished it and flipped right back to the beginning to read it again. And as for if it’s harmful i think any book could be harmful in the right (or wrong) hands. I definitely think people with anorexia or in recovery from it should not read this book. I don’t think people in recovery from anything should read a book about their disease, it might trigger it or cause depression. But i think this book is amazing. It gives an honest and raw look at the disease without seeming over worked.

    A must read, but reader discretion advised.

  21. Okayy…
    As an aneorexic myself, (nothing to hide on the internet,) I think this book is depressing yet strangely uplifting. There is no cure, and I’m nnever going to stop. I’m really dissapointed though, it wasn’t such an impactful book.
    It’s okay.

  22. I’ve got to disagree with a few people here. I suffered (in some ways, I always will suffer) with anorexia for years. Reading this book made a bigger impact on my life than anything. This book saved my life. Not only is it an amazing book that really shows the truth of what it’s like in a way I haven’t seen done before, but it’s an amazing book for those who are still “in the snow”. And to be quite blunt, any tricks it teaches can be found in about three seconds on google. Telling them in the book will teach more people signs to watch for than it will tips. I would strongly encurage this book to anyone with an ED, or anyone leaning that direction.

  23. where can you find this book? i am really interested in reading it….Can you qet it at a public library????

  24. Hi Janae,

    You should certainly be able to get Wintergirls at almost any public library. I’d be surprised if yours didn’t have it. Good luck in your search!

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