Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Review - Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

Laurie Halse Anderson
278 pgs.
3 1/2 hrs. (not one you can speed through)

Lia lives with her dad, stepmom Jennifer, and little sister Emma. She chose to live with them after being released from the clinic. For anexorics. She's still struggling with her emotions and her weight. Then she finds out that her former best friend is dead. This sends Lia into a downward spiral as she tries to find answers to who she is supposed to be now.

I gave this book to the counselors at our school and all the Language Arts teachers because of some articles I had read which I link to at the bottom of this post. We were supposed to meet and talk about it. I received one email from a staff member mentioning that she didn't like this book and that she would never let her daughter read it.

Three of the 7 LA teachers showed up to discuss Wintergirls. Overall, we liked the book but we thought it might be too intense for most of our middle grade students. Two of us had read and enjoyed Speak and was expecting a similar sense of humor/sarcasm to run through Wintergirls and were disappointed in its bleakness. Although Elijah introduced a comic element to Wintergirls, it wasn't enough.

T1 - Dr. Nancy talks too much, never actually listens, everyone seems to be looking out for themselves which left Lia trying to lookout for herself because no one else was. Not sure what triggered disorder, seems as if nothing ever happened to her. Anderson didn't describe the body as much as I thought and it was missing her sense of humor.

T1's daughter - Lia seems pessimistic, depressed and self-absorbed (after hearing part of book read aloud)

T2 - Made me think of what I was eating. Lia was not a sympathetic character and the parents never seem to know what's going on, they are so out of touch.

T1 - Makes you wonder if imperfect parents can have normal children. Are my kids going to grow up with a lot of problems because of mistakes I made or things I said?

T3 - I thought Elijah would prove to be more trustworthy. Lia seems to need someone to trust. I didn't really like the characters. Emma was the only non-whiny person. She might have issues later though because Jennifer told Lia not to let her have chips and then Lia gave them to her but told her not to tell.

All - I think some of the more mature 8th graders could handle this. Not really sure if this would push them towards disorder or away. It would be great to discuss with them. They may like the drama surrounding Lia.

Me - I can't really say I "liked" this book or I "enjoyed" reading it because I didn't. It was good. The emotions seemed dead-on. The cross-outs added to Lia's trying to be in control of herself. Elijah added a much needed counter-balance to Lia. Anderson is the best I've found at writing sarcasm. I thought the book could serve as a lesson to grown-ups - when we push children, they will often tell us what we want to hear. They know when we are looking for a particular answer. Our hidden agendas...are not hidden at all.

The formatting in this book was fantastic. I felt it told it's on story: the small font when Lia was thinking of Cassie's last night, the numbering of the chapters with either a double zero or just a zero, the italics when Lia was looking back, when Lia is reading the pro-aneroxia websites, and the cross-outs...

"I'm hungry I need to eat
I hate eating
I need to eat
I love not-eating." 145

This book really packed a wallop. Like we mentioned, there was some humor but not enough.

"What a bitch, it's like she thinks she's your mother or something." 140

Which is Elijah talking to Lia about Chloe, Lia's mother. T2 wondered about Halse Anderson's choice for the name Elijah. We looked it up and Elijah was a prophet he wanted people to choose, to stop wavering. Elijah tells Lia to choose her family not him...We don't know if it meant anything though. I tweeted her the question, we'll see if she answers.

I will put this book in our library, probably four copies cause I think it should be a discussion book. I don't think I'll class booktalk it though. I may just give it to readers who I think will appreciate it. It's a hard book to evaluate. I really think it would do well to give this to parents. At Anderson's Bookshop signing Laurie Halse Anderson said a girl thanked her for writing the book because she was able to give it to her mom. It could open a lot of eyes.

Have you read this book? What do you think?

New York Times - Skin and Bones


I'm not sure if I've said all I want to say about this book. It's still floating around my head. Little pieces making themselves known, causing me to stop and think about them.


  1. I have read and reviewed this book and I think it is acceptable from 8th grade up. In fact our children should be reading challenging literature, they need to understand the world and how it works. We as Americans tend to shelter our children more than in other countries. Lia's story while disturbing could save lives of teens who have this problem or have friends who do. It's not a manual for anorexia, but a complicated disturbingly deliciious account of a teen overcoming a major life hurdle.

  2. I think you hit the nail on the head in this review. I agree that it "packs a wallop." I also found the emotions to ring true. I think T1's daughter was also very observant, saying that Lia seemed depressed - that's exactly what I thought. Her depression ran so deep that it was about to suck her under.

    I'm also a middle school librarian, and shared this with our 7th & 8th grade English teacher. She liked it, found it very powerful, but said it had to be for the right kid. I haven't put it on our shelves yet, but I think I will.

    Take a look at my review of Wintergirls: http://greatkidbooks.blogspot.com/2009/03/wintergirls-by-laurie-halse-anderson.html

    Mary Ann

  3. Great review. I'm adding this book to my TBR list. I like those kinds of books that stay floating around in your head for awhile.

  4. Great review! I've been wondering about this book but I haven't had a chance to pick it up. I love books with interesting formats. Maybe I'll pick this one up when I'm in the mood for something a bit heavy.

  5. I, too, felt it packed a wallop and wished I had been able to have this book in hand when counseling in grades 6-8 years ago. I posted here about it: http://www.rascofromrif.org/?p=2231.

  6. Great Review!!!! Hey I have an award for you come get it here, great blog =)


  7. 3.5 hours, not one you can speed through. If I could read a book in 3.5 hours that wasn't for the under 10 set, I would jump up and down! So jealous of this, KB, so jealous. I have this one on my TBR list. Great review.


Thanks for chatting! I love comments and look forward to reading yours! I may not reply right away, but I am listening! Keep reading and don't forget to be awesome!


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