Week 14, Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

Week 14, Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

Anderson, L. (2009). Wintergirls. New York, NY: Penguin Group.

Summary:  

This intriguing novel opens with Lia learning that her ex-best friend has been found dead in a motel room. We soon learn that Lia rejected Cassie’s call 33 times the night before. Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 1.50.11 PMThere are even desperate messages on Lia’s phone, but Lia does not acknowledge this connection as she has her own battles, already being sent to rehabilitation twice now. Lia feels out of control of her life as her parents divorced when she was young and her father remarried. The only good thing Lia feels she has is her younger step sister, Emma. However, after Cassie’s death, Lia is followed around by the ghost of Cassie. Whether to haunt her about her rejected phone calls, or to try to bring Lia to the other side, Cassie continues to encourage Lia’s self-harming behaviors. As Lia eats less and cuts more, she finds herself in the same motel room where Cassie lost her life. At the end, we find out if Lia succumbs to the beckoning of Cassie and her own mental demons, or is able to fight back and actually want to live again.

Keywords: mental health; anorexia; death; ghosts

What I Think:

Although this is a tough topic, I enjoyed this book because I thought it could be relatable to a lot of girls. While many who read the book may or may not have as serious as problems as the characters in the story, all girls go through thoughts of judgment and not feeling good or pretty enough. “I measure myself. I can’t play soccer, and most of them have better grades than me. But I am the thinnest girl in the room, hands down” (Anderson, 2009, p. 78).  This is an example of a quote from the main character as she is describing her day to the audience. I think many girls including myself could relate to, at one point in time, measuring themselves compared to other girls, whether in person or on social media. This is why this book can be very relatable to teens.

Additionally, I liked this book due to the author’s style of writing as the 18-year-old character, Lia Overbrook. There are many times throughout the text where Lia has scratched out sentences or thoughts as she is explaining her life to the audience. For example, Lia expressed her feelings of wanting to eat a piece of pizza that is offered to her but having to turn it down. This is shown through the crossed out string of words, “One bite, please, and then another and another, crust and cheese sausage sauce another and another” (p. 121). After this thought, Lia lies and turns down the pizza, even though the audience can clearly see how bad she wants to accept. This is an example of the interesting way the author formats and writes the book, which is why I would definitely encourage the book in my classroom!

What the Experts Think:

Lia and best friend Cassie are good at one thing, being thin. Cassie’s bulimia results in her death, yet Lia is still determined to be the thinnest girl in high school. Stith takes us inside Lia’s head as she spirals downward with her addictive behavior. She voices Lia’s interior monologues, reactions to parents and therapists, negative self-talk, obsessive calorie counting, and attempts to make food repulsive. Through vocal modulations and tonal changes, Stith captures the teen’s anger and fears. The other teenagers also sound realistic, as do Lia’s parents, who come across as irritated, bewildered, and helpless as they watch their daughter self-destruct. Anderson doesn’t pull any punches with her writing, and Stith is equally honest and compelling in her reading. Includes an author interview. Also available in Playaway ($59.99). – Laurie Hartshorn

Hartshorn, L. (2009). Wintergirls. The Booklist, 106(1), 122.

Classroom Recommendations:
I would use this book and direct it mainly to girls or guys who might be struggling with mental health or eating disorders. I would love to get a group in order to create a sense of community and trust among those with similar struggles. I would have these specific students read this book, but before I would have them preview and notice that the point of view is in first person limited omniscient. I would have them brainstorm why this might be useful in a book about this topic. Then, after reading the book, I would come back to this question and ask now why they think this book was written in that specific point of view. I would also have the group discuss why the author chose to strike out certain sentences or phrases while writing about the character’s day. Finally, I would have the group discuss the feelings of the characters and how they personally might have handled situations differently than Lia did in the book. I would hope all of this discussion would not only be literacy based, but would also benefit this specific group of struggling students.
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