Laurie Halse Anderson–Wintergirls

The what: Laurie Halse Anderson tackles eating disorders in “Wintergirls.” Main character Lia has already been institutionalized twice for anorexia. After her best friend’s bulimia proves fatal, Lia makes up for being unable to control grief by becoming hyper-controlling of her food intake and exercise habits.

The good: Anderson absolutely nailed disordered eating. Everything from Lia’s thought modifications to her habit of chopping up food into tiny pieces painted a portrait of a teen obsessed. Lia’s perceptions of her body are miserably skewed, and Anderson does a masterful job of showing that fact to the reader while staying true to Lia’s point of view. Objects are heavier than they appear due to Lia’s weakness, and driving becomes a tremendous challenge because of the risk of her passing out from malnutrition. The other characters, particularly Lia’s parents, are shown in all their impotence and denial and fallibility. For all the problems that each character brings to the table, the book ends on a believably hopeful note. “Wintergirls” is a wonderful, rare blend of well-researched and well-written material.

The meh: It took me most of the book to get past my frustration at reading yet another book about How Very Hard It Is To Be Upper-Middle Class And White. Yes, I’m sure it’s hard. Yes, that position in society surely submits people to all manner of pressures that I cannot begin to imagine. And yet, yes, my patience for reading about the woes of the painfully privileged runs thin after “Hamlet,”  heaps of J.D Salinger, Rachel Cohn’s Cyd Charisse books, and countless others. That is not to say that I did not like those books–I re-read “Hamlet” about once a year–but oof, what’s a woman gotta do to get a variety of socio-economic classes represented in her to-read pile?

Hand it to: Fans of Anderson’s “Speak,” fans of problem novels (e.g. Ellen Hopkins’ “Crank”), Sarah Dessen fans looking for something darker, and Nancy Pearl’s “character” readers.


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