Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson: FAR from a fluffy contemporary

Title: wintergirlsWintergirls

Author: Laurie Halse Anderson

Genre: YA contemporary

Length: 278 pages

Published by: Viking

Source: borrowed

Blurb: 

Lia and Cassie are best friends, wintergirls frozen in matchstick bodies, competitors in a deadly contest to see who can be the skinniest. But what comes after size zero and size double-zero? When Cassie succumbs to the demons within, Lia feels she is being haunted by her friend’s restless spirit.

In her most emotionally wrenching, lyrically written book since the multiple-award-winning Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson explores Lia’s descent into the powerful vortex of anorexia, and her painful path toward recovery.

Before we begin, I just want to say that this is a really confronting book – it’s up there with Ellen Hopkin’s books. I read Speak right before it, but even that didn’t affect me on the level that this did. Just be careful reading this, okay guys? If you’re triggered by any of these things: anorexia, bulimia, self-harming…be careful. And I love you all.

Back to the book. 

The blurb describes it as “lyrical.” And it is. Laurie Halse Anderson’s descriptions are absolutely incredible. Bordering on surreal, there are metaphors that work so well, things you’d never think to make metaphors about. Reading Lia’s story is so sad, and these descriptions just seem to heighten that. For a writing style that’s unique and beautiful despite how sad the story is, I’d definitely recommend this one.

I loved the family aspect. They’re far from perfect, that’s for sure. They argue frequently, and often don’t know what to do about Lia’s anorexia, and they were real. That’s what struck me most about this book; despite the descriptions that are so unique and out-of-this-world, everything else was firmly planted in reality. And that’s what makes it so scary.

Mental illness is scary. It’s scary because we can’t see it, and it can be difficult for the loved ones of the person with mental illness. And that’s what I loved most about the family, because that was portrayed so well.

Things don’t magically come together neatly at the end. It’s not like, GROUP HUG and the book’s over.

It was a realistic portrayal. Didn’t sugar-coat anything.

We got to see Lia’s thought process. She sees food mostly as calories. Honestly, all I could think is that she must be seriously good at maths (I’m sorry. These are the types of stupid things I think in amazing books). We see how much she obsesses about her weight. Her goals are constantly changing – first it’s 100, then 95, and it never stops. It just keeps going. It was really, really insightful, and I learnt a lot. I think reading is a huge help with empathy, because we’re literally inside the heads of characters, and that’s one of the big things that I found incredible about this book.

I wasn’t a big fan of the hallucinations, or whatever they ended up being. Not sure why. It just took away from the other things? I think? But this still makes my favourite shelf.

This is a very, very powerful read. I recommend it to fans of Ellen Hopkins – both of these writers are not afraid to confront the big issues.

Rating: 5/5 Wonderkitties

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24 thoughts on “Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson: FAR from a fluffy contemporary

  1. This book sounds great, but I am not sure if I want to read it yet. I haven’t read any of Ellen Hopkins’ books because I can’t say I like big, confrontational books. Oh well.

  2. Oh, man. I have a feeling this book will be pulling my heartstrings. I don’t think anything will be triggered by it as I never experienced these problems, but my emotional capabiltiy may be affected. This sounds so touching yet so shocking at the same time. I really want to read it now. As much as mental illness is scary because as you said, it’s not SEEN, it’s NOT physical, it’s something that I don’t really understand as well, and I really want to see and understand it more, even if it’s through fictional characters. Sometimes they are the key to more awareness as they are widely read.

    Great review, love!!

    Faye at The Social Potato

    • You described it perfectly! Emotional, touching, shocking…all of those things. Reading is so helpful with understanding these things better – we may never go through them, but being in the headspace of a character can really help with that.

  3. I have a copy of this book and I think it sank at the bottom of my tbr list because of so many to-review books. But I might read this soon after reading your review and seeing that you gave this one a high rating. It piques my interest whenever authors try to touch sensitive issues like mental health because you’ll see that they know about the subject and didn’t just put it there to make the book interesting. Great review Emily! 🙂

    Ella @ The Filipina Booknote

    • Haha, I know what you mean about review books. Good thing we love them 🙂 I love books that tackle sensitive issues. They may get some things wrong, but it’s nice to know these topics are being addressed at all (that’s one reason I love Jodi Picoult so much!).

  4. I borrowed this from the library…but mine came with a weird cover with a girl in front of the mirror, and it just looked really…not YA!! >.< But anyway, that didn't affect my opinion, I just didn't get a chance to read it before it went back. SO I WILL BORROW IT AGAIN. 5 stars?! Oh my. Yes. I need to know this book. Plus I've only read The Impossible Knife by Laurie Halse Anderson, so I want to see some different angles of her writing. Fabulous review (like, um, ALWAYS), Emily!! XD You've sold me. (Or well, I'm borrowing it, but whatever.)

    • I just looked up the cover. It’s the Text one, right? Pretty weird. But yes! You should borrow it again! The amount of books I borrow and then have to return…obviously I am waaaay too optimistic about my reading speed 😛 I loved The Impossible Knife of Memory. And I won a hardback copy which is lovely. 😀

  5. I read this book a long time ago – about when it first came out – as a part of a class project I was doing on children’s/teen books dealing with eating disorders. I don’t remember much about the plot exactly because it was a while ago but what I do remember is that this book was very haunting. It was beautifully written but very haunting. I’m on a contemporary kick with my reading at the moment so maybe I’ll reread this. Thanks for reminding me about this book! Great review!

    – Jazzie @ The Book Dancer

    • Haunting is such a fantastic way to describe this (actually, everyone has given me awesome words. Maybe I should just rewrite the review with everyone’s comments, haha). I’ve been on a contemporary kick ever since discovering John Green – it’s most of what I read! But I’m sloooowly getting into more fantasy and other spec-fic 🙂

      • Haha oddly enough, same here! My contemporary kick started after I read TFIOS for the first time. It’s all I’ve been reading since then. Though my most recent haul has me going back to fantasy since that’s basically all I bought =)

  6. Oh, Emily. I can’t explain how happy I am to see you rating this book, one of my all-time favourites, 5 stars. I’ve struggled with an eating disorder a few years ago, and I read this book during my recovery – while it is very confronting, it enabled me to see my illness from the outside, and it was something that made me very sad, but also pushed me to keep healthy and begin to recover. That’s why I love it so much, so thank you for the great review.

    • I’m sorry to hear that you struggled with an eating disorder, but also really glad that you got through it ❤ hugs all round! I can see how this book would provide an objective view as well as seeing what it's like from the inside. Definitely very, very powerful.

  7. I keep seeing this book and keep almost picking it up, but it’s the self-harm issue that keeps me from doing it. I read Thirteen Reasons Why and the suicide aspect affected me hugely because I’d considered it before, and I guess the truth is you never stop being a self-harmer, even after you’ve stopped the actual harming, it is a mental illness and reading about another form could affect me hugely, however, I do feel braver to try it, because of it’s lyrical nature and how beautiful you say it is. I will try it within the next few months, but this is a wonderful review, honest too 🙂

    • Thirteen Reasons Why is another one of those. Books can be scary sometimes. I hope you’re okay, though!! You can always DM me on Twitter or something, yes? Or email me? Whatevs, you know.

      It’s hard recommending books like this, because you never know how people will react to them. It might be hugely helpful, but it could also be really triggering. I guess I’ll just go with “be careful,” and you can always stop reading it if you need to 🙂

  8. I absolutely loved this book! I think I read it a couple of years back. I keep reminding myself to buy it, so I can write a review on it. Yeah, I think one of my favorite aspects of the novel was viewing her though process, too! Each time she would struggle to find something to eat, and the mentality that was described each time she did eat. It was eye-opening.

    Matilda @ Oxford Reviews

    • Eye-opening is right. When you’ve never experienced this, it’s difficult to empathise, and that’s where this book really did well – it made me understand, or as close as it’s possible without going through it personally.

  9. This book sounds so freaking good. I’ve had it on my TBR for a long time, but I’ve never actually read it. I’ve heard so many great things about Laurie Halse Anderson’s books, but I haven’t read them yet. Maybe I should change that, though!

    Great review, Emily ❤

  10. Pingback: What Happened This Week: handwriting challenge and TFIOS hit theatres | The Loony Teen Writer

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