Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Wintergirls - Laurie Halse Anderson

Summary:  Cassie’s body was found in a motel room.  She called Lia 33 times before she died.  Lia never picked up.  Now the voice in Lia’s head tells her to stay strong.  Keep control.  Lose more.  Weigh less.  Thin.  Thinner.  Thinnest.  Maybe she can make herself disappear altogether.  (Summary from back of the book and image from rebecca-books.blogspot.com)

My Review:  I've lived through watching a loved-one fight the mental illness of anorexia.  I battled the demons with her: the voices, the self-loathing, the control.  It's scary.  It's heartbreaking.  It's as raw as I've ever lived.  It's so, so scary.  Because you really don't know if she will choose to come out of it.  And you really don't have any control in the matter.  No control at all.

The way Anderson depicts Lia is chillingly real.  Her inner dialogue is crafted so that you can see Lia fighting with herself--the self she tries to suppress is crossed out, but can still be read.  I've listened to those thoughts come out of my loved-one.  I watched the battle, the counting, the obsession with food, the perfection in every other aspect of her life.  It's exhausting to watch, let alone live.  These girls who can manage to stay alive while running on 500 calories or less a day (exercising off any calories consumed really means you're not running on anything) are the walking dead.  And there is so much pain there. 

Lia's experience is exacerbated by her cutting and her use of laxatives when she does (which is rare) screw up and eat more than she allotted herself for the day.  It truly is amazing the kind of abuse a body can endure, and yet it is so, so tragic that it happens to a person by self-infliction.  While Lia's experience is unique to her, there are common issues you'll see with all anorexics: food obsession, the counting and recounting of calories, the secrets, the lies, the midnight exercising, the self-loathing, the distorted reality, the guilt, the anger, the depression.  It's all there.  The cutting and laxatives will depend on the case. 

It's been 15 years since I've experienced anorexia first hand.  This book had me reliving it as if I was just there.  Any mother, father, teacher, friend, fill-in-the-blank who truly wants to understand how the mind of an anorexic works, this book is eye-opening.  Anderson is an incredible writer.  I've seen it in other works, and it comes through again with Wintergirls.  Denial is a common issue of parents of a daughter fighting this mental illness.  I hope that by reading a book like this, crafted so beautifully by Anderson, a parent could come to grips with just how deadly, how dark, and how sad anorexia is.  The idea of wanting to disappear is real. I highly recommend this book--just please don't come into it with rose-colored glasses.  It is disturbing.

For the sensitive reader: Swear words, mostly self-directed from self-loathing by Lia to herself, but they're there.  Depictions of pill-popping (laxatives), cutting, and arguments between Lia and her parents.  Very real, very raw, but honest.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Sum it up: A peek into a dark, unforgiving world where bones and self-loathing reign.

1 comment:

Melissa McCurdy said...

So glad you reviewed this!! I have it on my shelf...but my 12 year old wants to read it. I've told her I need to read it first...yes, in deed I do!

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