Review : Wintergirls
Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
Pages : 278
Genre : YA, Fiction
My Rating :
What it’s about :
Lia and Cassie used to be best friends; they shared every secret and bet on who would be the skinniest. But now Cassie is dead, and Lia fins herself alone to confront her demons. Between her guilt for not answering her friend’s last phone calls and her family’s pressure to make her eat, Lia deals the only way she can : she controls everything she eats, setting new goals for her body.
100 pounds, then 90, then 85. With her weight, Lia slowly looses her sanity as well as her family. When will it be enough for her to stop?
After turning Wintergirls last page, I realized I had very conflicted feelings about the book. Between outstanding writing and an unlikable main character, I wasn’t sure where I stood.
I have no doubt that writing about such a troubling subject as anorexia must be difficult – reading about it certainly is. Finding the line between a good storyline and a non-romantic exposition of eating disorders is tough, but Anderson succeeded there. She did a beautiful job with Lia’s voice. The writing felt original and very close to her, in a way that made me feel like I could understand, at least partly, what she was going through. She also makes a great use of the language as an object itself, striking through words, repeating some, creating a prose that illustrates the conflicts Lia is having.
The fact that I understood Lia’s feelings didn’t mean I liked her though. She seemed at times very selfish, caring about no one but herself, and I say that knowing that she had a lot on her mind. I also get that eating disorders are a type of mental illness, and that it controls one’s life. For some reason though, I couldn’t relate to Lia very much. Only with her little sister, Emma, did I feel some kind of connection that made her more human to me. The ending was also good on that point, although it came really late in the book and was a little rushed.
On the other hand though, maybe Lia’s personality was exactly the point of the book. If you have had in your life someone who has dealt with similar issues, you might know how after some time, their problems eat them up and they become those problems. They close themselves to the world because they can’t deal, they push people away until those who love them can’t stand them anymore (or have a hard time to). Lia is like that : her issues take so much place that it’s all that she is. Her parents have a hard time with her, and as readers, so do we. While I would usually put an unlikable character as a fault, in this case, I’m not so sure. Hence the conflicted feelings towards the book.
Wintergirls is not a comfortable read. It is disturbing and intense, which is good (in a way) since reading about anorexia shouldn’t be like a walk in the park. Anderson’s writing was perfect for the task : dark, gripping, the story hooked me from the first page and I couldn’t stop until I reached the end. If you are interested in books that explore the darkest side of the human mind, this is definitely a good one. I know I’ll be looking to read more from the author.