Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
Published by Viking in 2009
Book 8 in my January Kindle Challenge
Cassie and Lia are best friends, and united in their quest to be thin. But when Cassie is found dead in a motel room, Lia must question whether she continues to lose weight, or choose life instead.
This book is sad, frustrating and depressing. And I absolutely loved it. Our narrator, Lia, has suffered for years from anorexia, and the recent death of her former best friend sends her spiralling again. Told entirely from her point of view, we get a sometimes horrific insight into the mind of someone who is caught in a cycle of self-destruction.
Lia is such a frustrating character at times – you just want to shake her! But at the same time I found myself feeling sorry for her throughout and was so desperate for her to get better.
The characters around Lia give this story real depth. Her parents, now divorced, are both flawed despite their obvious love for Lia, and her stepmother tries her best but is clearly out of her depth. You can see that her parents have unwittingly contributed towards Lia’s illness – but this is well-handled and not laid on too thick. You don’t find yourself hating the parents as you may have expected to – they are imperfect but human too.
Lia also has a really lovely relationship with her young stepsister Emma. This shows another side to Lia’s character which I think was really important in the context of everything else that was happening in the novel. Elijah, who works at the motel where Lia’s best friend Cassie died, is also an interesting character and I was relieved this didn’t turn into the typical romance that I did at first expect when his character was introduced.
This is a young adult novel and although, yes, I can see this is a good, thought-provoking read for teens, I never at any point felt conscious that I was reading YA. The book is never patronising, and it also never holds back from the realities of Lia’s illness.
Overall I thought this was a brilliant book. It tackles harsh issues in a believable way and Lia was a great character – flawed, desperate, sad and yet very real at the same time. I will definitely be reading more by this author.