Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Published: 2009 (2010 in Paperback)
Summary: Lia and Cassie are best friends locked in a battle to be the thinnest. After Cassie’s death, Lia must deal with living life and being haunted by ghosts and memories.
Reviewer’s Note: This book deals with triggering subject matter — self injury, eating disorders, substance abuse, and death being the main subjects of this novel. Therefore, I’m putting a trigger warning on this review, especially because my thoughts are based around answering questions from the discussion guide at the end of the edition of this novel I read.
The first epigraph is from a hymn to Demeter and I think it relates to Lia because she feels overwhelmed with everything, like she was thrown into something she wasn’t ready for. Lia may have cried out, but like with Persephone, no one heard her (until it was too late).
The second epigraph is from Sleeping Beauty and this one is harder for me to relate to Lia, but it could have to do with the term “wintergirl”. Everyone around Lia wants to help her, even if it doesn’t seem that way many times, but in her case she also has to want to help herself. Until she feels that, no one can help her.
A wintergirl, to me, is someone who is frozen in a pattern of self-destruction and keeps spiraling even after they’ve fallen as far as they think they can fall. Lia is frozen in her pattern of restrictive self-destruction and Cassie was so stuck in the competition that it haunts her in the after-life to the point where she cannot move on.
I think that Cassie’s death acts as part of her triggers, but the real catalyst is that Lia has everyone around her telling her how she should be reacting to Cassie’s death. Restrictive eating disorders are all about control; Lia is feeling like she has a handle on her emotions, but then gets conflicting messages from all the adults around her who are feeling like she’s not grieving enough or just not giving them the reaction they want. In that situation, Lia has lost a bit of how she felt her life was in control and needed to do something in order to gain control again; in Lia’s case, her situation lead her to a relapse.
I definitely agree with the superintendent’s sentiment. Anyone can struggle with anything and it would be rude to dismiss that because something isn’t worse than something else.
In Wintergirls, Laurie Halse Anderson has dealt with a heavy, triggering subject matter in a very haunting manner that is filled with respect for the topic. I really enjoyed it and will most likely read this book again.