It had been a long time since I read Speak – I read it years ago when it was first published. I always enjoyed that book, and this was on my to-read list for a long time, and finally I decided to get a copy of this and dive into it.
The whole premise for this book really interested me. For some reason, I really love books that tackle tough issues, such as mental health issues, eating disorders, etc. They feel so real and so important, and I feel like I can never get enough of really good books that deal with rough topics like these. That’s probably why I wanted to read Wintergirls so badly. Well that, and the cover just really drew me in for some reason.
Wintergirls was not an easy read. It was not a flowery, happy-go-lucky little book wrapped up with a bow that will bring tons of sunshine into your life. This book was difficult, it was sad, it was angry – it was everything full of real emotions that will make you see so many things through a different light. For that reason, I can’t give this book enough praise. Laurie Halse Anderson did not sugarcoat anything in her novel; she told the truth through her characters’ eyes, whether or not the world was ready to read something so incredibly raw.
“‘Dead girl walking,’ the boys say in the halls.
‘Tell us your secret,’ the girls whisper, one toilet to another.
I am that girl.
I am the space between my thighs, daylight shining through.
I am the bones they want, wired in a porcelain frame.”
Lia and her very best friend, Cassie, have spent years counting calories, starving themselves, and doing whatever they need to do in order to lose weight and be the skinniest. They love it, they love being perfect.
One day, Cassie dies. Her body can no longer handle the stress that she is putting on it, and she doesn’t make it out of the contest for the skinniest girl alive. Lia, however, does – and she gets a rude wake up call when she hears about Cassie’s death.
After Cassie dies, Lia’s parents crack down on her, trying their hardest to get her to understand that she needs to take care of herself, that she needs to eat, or she will be next to crumble. Although Lia has no interest, and wants nothing more to continue the lifestyle that she has become addicted to – looking perfect, not eating, being the skinniest she can be – they keep at her, keep trying to fix the damage she has done to her body and get her healthy again.
In Lia’s state, she begins to see Cassie, who talks to her and encourages her to continue her path to being as thin as she can, even telling Lia that she will eventually end up like her, and that being dead isn’t so bad.
“‘You’re not dead, but you’re not alive, either. You’re a wintergirl, Lia-Lia, caught between the worlds. You’re a ghost with a beating heart.'”
As Lia fights her demons and is determined to get to the bottom of Cassie’s death, figuring out what really happened to this girl who was once such a huge part of her, she is racing against the clock with her own mortality, fighting to stay alive, or to let go once and for all.
Wintergirls is one of those books that will send you on an emotional roller coaster ride from the very beginning to the last page. The book was completely unsettling at all pages, raw and gripping, and honestly, a must read.
While I was a bit thrown off by the ending, I see the reason for the author ending it the way she did (although I do wish that maybe a second book or a novella would pop up in the future sometime!), and it was truly fitting in comparison with the rest of the book.
The writing in this book is quite comparable to Speak, honestly, which probably is another reason I enjoyed it so much. It’s different and incredibly unique, and you can tell it’s a book by this author just by reading a few pages of it. I liked the writing style, and I like how the author told the story.
Lia’s character is full of anger, pain, frustration, and guilt over her best friend’s death, the toll her eating disorder is taking on her family and herself, and of course, sadness. She is real, she is honest, and she is the kind of character that you will find yourself loving reading about, through her eyes.
If you’ve read Speak, you know how well Laurie Halse Anderson can tell a story. If you haven’t read Speak, this book is still one that will shake you to your core and make you think about the consequences to our actions, no matter how big or small.