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Winter Girls As A New Diet Book?

Jenny prefers buttercream frosting perfection over Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson.

Winter Girls As A New Diet Book?

BOOK REPORT for Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

BFF Charm: NO FRIGGIN' WAY
Swoonworthy Scale: 0
Talky Talk: Poetic
Bonus Factors: Weight Loss
Relationship Status: I've Filed For A Restraining Order

Warning: ED Trigger

The Deal:

Lia's just found out that her ex-best friend, Cassie, was found dead in a motel. Cause of death? They're saying she died of natural causes. But Lia feels haunted, because she hadn't heard from Cassie in months... until the night she died. Because on the night she died, Cassie called Lia 33 times. Lia never picked up.

Now Lia's heart surgeon mother and professor father- divorced, of course- are afraid she's slipping back into her old ways: starving herself, cutting herself, general self-harming. The thing they don't know: she never stopped.

BFF Charm: NO FRIGGIN' WAY

I will give Lia this: she made me feel a lot of emotion. First, I was annoyed with her. Her whole "when I was a real girl, I used to..." and listing out the calories in every freaking piece of food she walked by. Having her goal weight- 95 pounds, reduce to 90 when she meets it, then 85 and so on.

The next emotion I felt was anger. I wanted to tie her to a chair, tell her to get some real problems, and force feed her. (Because nothing BAD really ever happened to her. There's no big reason for her to act the way she does, so you can say, 'man, she's messed up, but wouldn't you be?')

Then, as I got nearer the end, I was so fed up with her that I found myself almost rooting for her: go ahead, starve to death, just SHUT UP! And although she tried to be a good sister to her dad's new wife's daughter, she never really was, because she didn't WANT to get better. That's what a winter girl is. Someone who doesn't really want to die, but who's not among the living.

Also, Lia, and Cassie, too, for that matter, are the worst sort of friends. I'm not talking the friend who tells you you almost look pretty if you pull your hair down to cover most of your face. I'm talking encouraging each other in bulimia and anorexia, swearing to the moon that they will each be skinnier than the other one, until one of you dies from vomiting too much.

Swoonworthy Scale: 0

The only swooning in this book is done by Lia, when she's too lightheaded from not eating or from cutting herself.

Talky Talk: Poetic

Laurie Halse Anderson writes beautifully, and although I got REALLY annoyed with her overuse of the strikethrough, it accurately portrayed Lia's unstable mind.

Best line in the book: (this is from Jennifer, Lia's stepmother)

"Can we take the spotlight off you for just one minute, Lia? Put some food in your mouth, quit whining, and go to the damn drugstore."

Here's my problem: Self-harming and eating disorders are serious issues. But I think that writing fictional stories about them kind of glorifies them, just a bit. Especially when throughout the book Lia is steadily starving herself, and talks about how the clinics (she's been admitted twice) don't work, but then at the very very end, Lia suddenly deals with her 'ghosts', and things are wrapped up in a nice little hopeful package.

I believe it was the author's intention to expose these issues, to help, not harm. I read that she was even encouraged to write Wintergirls by a pediatrician. It's just my personal opinion that it might have been better to write a story about how Lia got better, instead of focusing (and in some ways, romanticizing? See below) the disease.

Bonus Factor: Weight Loss

Now don't get mad at me, you guys, cause I'm not joking. I'm going to get very real here to explain just how this book made me feel, so don't judge me too harshly. See, I've never had a full-blown diagnosed eating disorder, per se. But growing up, my mom was a binger/dieter. (You know, eat a salad, then half a gallon of ice cream, buy Snackwell cookies and eat the box in one sitting, and why oh why can't I lose weight sort of thing.) So in my early twenties, I had the realization that I didn't have to struggle like she did, if I just exercised self-control. And exercising self-control felt good. So good I'd go from small portions to half portions to a few bites to living off a few pretzels and a soda every day.

Before I got too skinny, I was able to recognize that my relationship with food was no healthier than my mom's, and I was able to work on finding a balance in my life. However, whenever the time comes where I need to shed a few pounds the VERY first thing that runs through my mind is 'well, I could just not eat for a bit.' Yeah, then I smack myself upside the head and get on with my life.

But whilst reading this book, even though I so was disgusted with Lia and her behavior that it literally made me sick to my stomach, there was that little part of my brain that tried to tell me 'you know, maybe 800 calories a day isn't such a bad idea.' Being the mature adult that I have become, I reached for the nearest cupcake and smiled menacingly at those thoughts while enjoying buttercream frosting perfection.

Casting Call:

Kayla Ewell as Lia

Ms. Ewell is angular enough to look gaunt pretty easily, but I honestly hope this book never gets made into a movie.

Relationship Status: I've Filed For A Restraining Order

Really. If this book gets within 50 feet of me, I'll call the cops. It certainly made me feel, but it didn't make me feel good.

Jenny Bird's photo About the Author: Jenny grew up on a steady diet of Piers Anthony, Isaac Asimov and Star Wars novels. She has now expanded her tastes to include television, movies, and YA fiction.
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