“Tell us your secret”, the girls whisper.
Lia and Cassie were best friends - locked in a toxic relationship where they battle to be the skinniest, Cassie through bulimia and Lia through anorexia. That is, until Cassie is discovered dead in a motel room, having tried to call Lia 33 times before she died. Lia is left to carry on the desperate struggle to control her weight, to remain ‘strong’ on her own.
I want to say before I write my review that I have no experience of eating disorders whatsoever, so I honestly can’t comment on whether the portrayal of how an anorexic thinks is accurate or not; all I can do is say what I liked about the book.
Gotta say, I didn’t especially ‘enjoy’ this book. It was a compelling read, but I never once sat back and thought, ‘Wow, I’m having such a great time reading this.’ But then, I don’t think that was what the author intended. What this book does do is shine a light on a subject that is frequently misunderstood and by its very nature secretive and for that it deserves a round of applause.
Wintergirls gives you all the horrific psychological and physiological effects of anorexia but avoids sensationalism. Lia is so when shecasual mentions her lack of periods, the languno her skin grows to try and keep warm and even the eventually breakdown of her organs and in a way that makes it all the more shocking.
I didn’t really connect with the characters as much as I wanted to, but I guess in a way that was inevitable. Lia is literally a Wintergirl - frozen emotionally and physically, so empathising with her was tricky. Her parents are emotionally distant, so there was no connection with them either and actually I kind of disliked them a bit for not seeing what was right in front of their faces.
One of the things I particularly admired about Wintergirls was that the author never tries to give a reason for Lia’s eating disorder. She comes from a broken home and has fairly disinterested parents, she has a friend with an eating disorder, she has self-esteem issues as well as a psychological disorder. There are a hundred potential reasons, or maybe an amalgamation of all of them or maybe no reason at all.
All in all, you’ve got to take your hat off to Laurie Halse Anderson for tackling such a horrific subject with grace and sensitivity and without resorting to sensationalism.