Lia is recovering from anorexia. At least, that is what the people around her think. Without seeing the weights she has sewn into the bathrobe she wears for her weekly weighing, or the hours she spends on the stair-stepper after everyone is asleep, or the calorie numbers that flash in front of her eyes every time she sees food, Lia’s family can believe that she is getting better. But really, she’s still a wintergirl, trapped inside her own cold and intensely controlled world. When Lia’s former best friend dies as a result of her bulimia – suddenly, gruesomely, and completely alone – the accusatory voice of Cassie’s ghost is added to the already-deafening chorus of voices in Lia’s head telling her to eat less, to lose five more pounds, to waste away and join Cassie forever.
Laurie Halse Anderson’s writing is lyrical and economical. The amount of meaning and backstory she can convey with a few crossed-out words or a short aside is nothing short of astonishing. After we learn that Lia ignored 33 phone calls from Cassie on the night that she died, the numbers one through thirty-three stretch across the page every time Lia thinks of Cassie’s death. With no other comment, that long line of numbers batters against you. It’s crushing. And this is just one example from a novel that is so tightly constructed and full of intense images and emotions. This high meaning-to-word-count ratio gives the writing a feeling of claustrophobia, especially when Lia’s stream-of-consciousness narrative takes over from the action of the story.
This is not an easy book to read – nor should it be. Laurie Halse Anderson places the reader deep into the psyche of a girl whose demons are threatening to overwhelm her. It’s not an easy book to turn away from, either.
Wintergirls on the web.
Laurie Halse Anderson on the web.
Laurie Halse Anderson’s blog.