Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

wintergirlsbylauriehalseandersonI was surprised at how fast I read Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson. I had heard a lot about the book and I really wanted to read this book. I was waiting to get my hands on a copy of the book when an angel, by the name of Natasha Maw loaned me her arc, which was on Wednesday afternoon, by 11:00 pm that night I had finished Wintergirls. I didn’t intend to finish it so fast. This is a tough, hard, heart-wrenching read and I wanted to know what happened, which says a lot because really I usually can’t handle such tough books in one sitting. I have to take breaks, but Laurie kept me turning page after page, wondering if Lia will make it?

Lia seems to have a perfect life, her mother is a medical docter her father a history professor and famous author. They are divorced, but with parents like that you should have it made. However, Lia suffers from anorexia while her best friend Cassie suffers from bulimia. Cassie calls Lia 33 times one night after ignoring her for months. Lia refuses to answer her phone and wakes-up the next day to find out that Cassie was found dead… in a motel room… alone. Wrecked with grief, Lia tries to deal with the guilt, but begins to spiral back into old habits – the starving, the cutting, the irrational thinking in an attempt to control her life. Lia feels a certain sense of powerlessness and self-loathing. She even admits, that if and when she achieves her goal she will never be happy – it’s more about the control then the weight. Laurie Halse Anderson does a wonderful job of describing what a person who has a this disease thinks like – the negative self-talk and the self-hating. They really think they are fat, even when the weigh less than a hundred pounds.

According to the National Eating Disorders Association as many as 10 million women or girls suffer from either anerexia or bulimia and in addition an estimated 1 million men and boys suffer as well.  Millions also suffer from  Binge Eating Disorder (BED). I appreciate Laurie’s skill in bringing this topic to the fore front. I personally can think of probably a dozen girls or women I have crossed paths with or know who suffer from an eating disorder. From girls in high school, to a college roommate, to co-workers, to students and family members. It is a real struggle for many people. It breaks your heart to see people do this and yet I think one of the most difficult things, which Laurie again does such a good job explaining, is how powerless parents and family members can be to help in those who suffer from an eating disorder. In Wintergirls, no one can make Lia decide to eat, not even her mother the docter. Lia’s parents can beg her to eat and they can offer her the best treatment available,  but they can’t force Lia to want to get better.

I’m not an expert on eating disorders nor am I a therapist, but I do have a caution about this book. It is excellent, highly recommended and skillfully crafted so what would be the caution? Well it’s this,  I’m not even sure how to word this, but Wintergirls may be triggering to some who suffer from this disease so I would be cautious about recommending the book to certain people. If I had a teen daughter, I might consider reading this with her and discussing it.

Laurie Halse Anderson’s blog and website. Also for those of you in the Salt Lake City area Laurie Halse Anderson will be at the King’s English on March 26, 2009.

Here is a video from Laurie sharing why she wrote the book.

Now I am going to consider this book for part of my women’s history reading this month and some may ask why? Well the people who suffer from eating disorders are most often girls and women. This is not meant to minimize the problem in boys and men because they are also victims of the disease, but I think this book will be long remembered for bringing this topic to new level of awareness. Wintergirls is history in the making.

For more more information about what you can do to help someone with an eating disorder or to find help if you are suffering from an eating disorder visit the National Eating Disorder Association website.

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6 thoughts on “Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

  1. I read it and loved it – didn’t see it as a possible trigger for those that have (or are borderline) eating disorders, but more as a cautionary tale of what can happen if you don’t get help. It was great that she downplayed the pro-ana websites but did show how easy it was to get sucked into that “life”.

  2. Deanna – It is so worth putting it on your TBR list. I loved it!

    Lazygal – Glad that you liked it. I actually got a chance to go to a book signing with Laurie Halse Anderson a few days ago and she addressed the same issue. That was a concern people brought up about the book. She did say she asked some experts in the field and they said well there are lots of things that can trigger someone with this disorder. Just going to the grocery store can be triggering. On the otherhand she knows some people who have said I don’t think this is the right book for me right now. She understands.

    I think after meeting Laurie and hearing her take on it, I might not have put that in my review. I am just being cautious because I know some people with the disease. I too thought it was great that she showed the pro-ana websites and how easy it is to get as you say “sucked in”.

    My overall feeling of the book is one of hope, even amongst all the pain.

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