Wintergirls is a Young Adult novel that follows Lia, an 18 year old girl suffering (or not so much suffering, as enjoying) anorexia as she comes to terms with the death of her best friend. Rating: 2/5
I’m going to start this review with a disclaimer: I appear to be the only person on the planet who hated this book. I mean, when I say that I hated this book I’m not exaggerating. I have this thing where I have to finish a book once I started, and the more it progressed, the more I wanted to throw it somewhere and never look at it again. I had such high expectations since Laurie also wrote ‘Speak‘, which was one of my favorite school reads from high school, and I was really disappointed. So, with that said, I’m not going to hold anything back, because that’s not my style. Please take the rest of this blog with a grain of salt. It is all my (unfiltered) opinion.
Wintergirls centers around Lia, an anorexic 18 year old that has been to “facilities” (clinics) twice and doesn’t really want to get better. Right in the beginning of the book we are introduced to her eating disorder, and that her best friend had just died. She’s not phased though, because they hadn’t talked in like, six whole months. I think this is what turned me off about Lia immediately. Even if she had held it together in front of everyone else, I would have at least liked to have her mention some sort of sadness as a narration. Throughout the book she grew more and more unlikable. She was kind of self absorbed, the only other person she cared about was her little sister (which thank god, because she needed an endearing quality). I completely, 100% understand that she has an eating disorder and I think that Laurie’s writing style was supposed to bring us into her mindset and all of that, but it made me not like her. She kept complaining about her mother and her father, but all I saw were really loving people who just did their best, even if they’re best wasn’t great. Both parents truly cared about her, cried for her, etc. yet towards the end of the book she tells her therapist that she is just “an old doll that they’ve outgrown”. It made her sound whiny and it pissed me off. Maybe that was also on purpose, she had a warped view of her body and her life and her parents?
I felt like the book was glamorizing the disease a bit. She didn’t want to get better. She was completely fine with being sick even though she knew what the consequences were. Again, I think the author was trying to make readers see how badly the disease can affect someone, but I think it did the opposite. I did a quick search on Tumblr about the book to see what other people thought, and lots of them were using passages of the book to support their disease. One chapter was three pages long of just the words “MUST NOT EAT“. These girls were taking pictures of these pages and idolizing them, and I don’t think that’s right. Lots of other people said that the book was a trigger for them, and it made them want to stop eating again or start cutting again because her narration reminded them of how good it felt. That’s not right, for teenage girls to be reading this book and take those ideas away with them. I feel like if you’re going to write a book like this it’s great to be real about it, but it should be done so in a way that teaches, or at least tries to deter, not trigger.
The style of the book also drove me crazy. She would have these weird visions, which would lead into these strange and long descriptions of sining spiders or something. There were no chapters, but it was written like there were chapters. The “chapter” would last one-two pages typically, sometimes more, and when it ended, the next chapter would start on the same page. She was constantly striking through words, right-aligning negative thoughts, or tripletripletriple typing things. Again, to get readers inside of Lia‘s mind. Instead, it irritated me. The author was also way too ambitious. She tried to take on too many things at once I feel. It was enough that she had an eating disorder, but then all of a sudden toward the end of the book she’s like, “Yeah, I have been able to see ghosts since my grandmother died”. It was unnecessary, as we were already able to tell that she was seeing Cassie because of her guilty conscious. Cassie was all together a nuisance to read. She was a dead girl, and she was a bitch. I had no sympathy for either of them.
There was only one silver lining in the entire book. A quote, and a very simple quote at that. it’s one of those quotes that you can alter and edit to relate it to yourself in any way you choose. I was at least glad that Lia was trying to get better once we reached the end of the book.
“I am beginning to measure myself in strength, not pounds. Sometimes in smiles.”
I would not recommend this book. I happen to be a fan of books with tragic stories, but this one just didn’t cut it. I think she spent too much time trying to create a clever style as opposed to creating interesting characters. I bought this book because I was expecting it to follow the dead girl more so than the alive girl, but I was clearly wrong. I’m not sure what was more disconcerting – the book itself, or all the girls obsessing over it on Tumblr.