Laurie Halse Anderson, Cherokee High School Visit

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By Mandy Webster

Wintergirls. Laurie Halse Anderson. Penguin Group, 2009.

I’ve been a fan of Laurie Halse Anderson since I read her novel, Speak last spring. So, when I came across Wintergirls in a bargain bin back in November, I had to grab it. And am I glad I did! In Speak, Anderson tackled the topic of rape, and now in Wintergirls, she takes on eating disorders in an equally engaging manner.

Wintergirls is the story of Lia, a teenage girl who is barely recovering from anorexia, after a forced hospital stay, when she learns that her former best friend Cassie has died.

Cassie, a bulimic with whom Lia had previously formed a pact to become the skinniest girl in school, has died a horribly lonely death in a ratty hotel room. But, not before attempting to contact Lia who refuses to answer her frantic calls.

Lia slides back into her old ways in an attempt to regain control of her life. She sees Cassie everywhere she looks and runs on the treadmill in the dead of night to avoid the ghost of her fallen friend.

Lia also struggles to deal with her fractured family; a strained relationship with her father and stepmother, a mother who Lia attempts to avoid at all cost and a younger stepsister she adores.  Along the way, Lia meets Elijah, a broke drifter who she eventually attempts to talk into letting her run away with him.

Despite, or maybe even because of, the sometimes fractured thoughts of the main character, Anderson artfully keeps the reader inside Lia’s head. When reading this book, I often felt what Lia felt, even though I have never had any experience with eating disorders myself.

I would definitely recommend Wintergirls for adults and teenagers alike. But, like Speak, is an especially important read for any teenage girl in the United States today.

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Amanda L. Webster