62. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
Few books have impacted me quite as much as Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson. From the first sentence to the ending, the novel related to my eating disorder and life so much. At parts, I could not tell if I was more triggered or inspired. That was how powerful and realistic it was. Because of that, I debated blogging about it for several months. Would it be more helpful or hindering? That was the main worry that I had. However, my decision was to highlight it on Media Monday while cautioning that some might be triggered by it. On the whole, however, this is another amazing book by Laurie Halse Anderson.
Synopsis: Lia is shocked to learn that her ex-best friend Cassie has just died. Both high schoolers, the girls recently cut off communication with each other after helping to fuel each other’s eating disorders. This news haunts Lia, who is secretly still deep in anorexia. At times, the ghost of Cassie almost seems to be following the living girl, convincing her that life is not worthwhile. Thus, Lia decides to find out the truth about the puzzling death of her friend despite the pain it will cause.
Recovery Pluses: As mentioned above, the books is so realistic to the emotions and thought process of an eating disorder. Fear of blacking out while driving and waking up to have killed someone – that is something I still struggle with at times. Never before had I realized that I was not alone in that agony. The same tricks, anxieties, and judgments that fill my mind are in this book. That makes it both difficult and good to read. I am not sure how someone with a strong eating disorder would handle this novel. It really depends on the person.
However, light shines through this bleak novel. Without giving away the conclusion, I will promise that the ending holds hope for Lia. Her coming days will not be easy, but there is help waiting for her and others in similar situations. The narrator and author finally show that an eating disorder is not a healthy way of life and that one can recover from it. This makes the novel as a whole less triggering.
Other important elements of recovery include the beauty and fragility of life. Cassie died before she could live her dreams. Lia is tempted to give up on herself and choose death. Yet, the novel makes it clear that doing so would be giving up on a future full of hope and promise. Yes, life is difficult, but it is also worth the fight.
Cautions: As mentioned above several times, this book is very triggering. Anorexic and bulimic symptoms are not shied away from or watered down to make the reader feel comfortable. All of the disgusting, cruel, and manipulative nature of eating disorder thoughts are addressed. This is difficult to read but so important for caregivers and support people to understand. Plus, it can be helpful for those who are struggling to relate to, as long as it is not too triggering. Teens and older would probably be the best audience for this novel.
Wintergirls sounds like a beautiful novel; it is not. This book features the gritty reality of eating disorders. Far from tame, exploring these illnesses that kill so many people and ruin thousands of lives is not a simple task. Anderson does an amazing job of portraying anorexia and bulimia that is both enlightening and disturbing, dark and hopeful, triggering and empowering. If you think that you are ready to handle a book like this, I suggest it as a flashlight to help escape from the dark of these mental illnesses. Yes, this is difficult and can be deadly. However, even in the hardest of moments, strength remains to push forward toward recovery.