My bedside table has held Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson for the past month. It’s been staring at me accusing me of not reading it and looking all blueish-green and intriguing whilst my procrastination endures. Finally on Saturday I picked it up and it made its way into my world as my weekend entertainment.
The story is about Lia and her friend Cassie, who has died at the beginning of the book, and the story evolves from here as a haunting tale about the haunted. Lia and Cassie were competitive friends, fighting for the right to call themselves the thinnest. Their world proves to be a dangerous game of anorexic and bulimic binge starvation and their families become caught in the tumultuous aftermath.
The most well written parts of the book for me were the parts that were crossed out (the unspoken internal dialogue; the “whoops I did it again- I shouldn’t be thinking this”talk). Read and you’ll see what I mean. It’s like Lia’s unconsciousness and consciousness fight constantly for the right to let go, to eat, to heal, to say what she really thinks. Equally as brutally frustrating is Anderson’s portrayal of Lia’s family who systematically respond as every parent would, but in a completely destructive and totally wrong way. Lia’s disregard for them is brilliant and Anderson captures beautifully their total inability to relate to their starving daughter. The most brilliant part for me was the fact that logically Lia’s family seem to be right in their interpretation of her problems and their desperation for her to seek help, but equally, I wanted Lia to prevail in her rebellion against them, their issues, her issues and her life. In the end, Lia’s salvation rests more upon theirs than they or she would probably have cared to admit. Look out also for the symbology found in the friendship between Lia and Elijah. While Lia must keep herself contained in order to survive, Elijah must remain free, uncomplicated and open.
I do not know whether or not Anderson has had personal experiences with eating disorders; I certainly cannot make that claim. However, the book (for me) captured Lia’s struggles so very well and I could easily relate to and understand some of the dialogue that may prevail in the minds of those who do struggle with eating (and other) disorders. I think that’s what makes this book such a good and rich story; its realism.
Take a good long gander at this one!