Wednesday, April 8, 2009

WINTERGIRLS by Laurie Halse Anderson

WINTERGIRLS is Anderson at her best. The story of Lia takes readers into the world of anorexia. Most stories of this type become endless descriptions of horrific self-denial and skin and bones, but Anderson delves much deeper into Lia's thought process. Even more insight is provided as Lia deals with the death of her friend Cassie.

Many plot lines help draw readers into WINTERGIRLS. Lia is the product of divorce. She explains that her parents should never have been together, but pregnancy forced the issue. She has experimented with living with her mother, a work-a-holic heart surgeon, and as the book begins, she's been living fairly successfully with her father, his new wife, and a stepsister who adores and worships Lia. The character of Cassie provides yet another look at eating disorders as her method of choice is to binge and purge.

Lia's self-image and eating disorder are not new. She's already been in a treatment program twice, and everyone plays a role in monitoring her behavior in hopes of preventing a relapse. However, since Lia's habits have become her lifestyle, she is an expert at avoiding detection. Even though her friend Cassie is gone, Lia feels her influence and encouragement from the grave. Lia also finds support from an online network of young people just like herself. When family, therapists, or others threaten her need to control food, she resorts to cutting as a way to relieve the pressure. Voices constantly haunt her and hold her prisoner inside her wasting body.

It is difficult to summarize WINTERGIRLS as one would a typical novel filled with action and events. Lia's story is more of a mind game that readers will become part of and anxiously follow to its conclusion. WINTERGIRLS will cement Anderson's place as a fantastic YA author.

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