- ISBN-13: 978-0-14-241557-3
- ISBN-10: 0-14-241557-X
- YA fiction
“I won’t pollute my insides with Bluberridazzlepops or muffins or scritchscratchy shards of toast, either. Yesterday’s dirt and mistakes have moved through me. I am shiny and pink inside, clean. Empty is good. Empty is strong.”
Wintergirls, chapter 003.00
Eighteen year old Lia suddenly learns that her former best friend, Cassie, died alone in a motel room. Cassie and Lia used to be inseperable, united in their life-threatening quest to both be size oo. Haunted by the fact she didn’t answer Cassie’s calls on the night she died, Lia struggles to hide her deadly secret…her promise. Lia is still determined to be the skinniest girl in school.
Book Snitch’s thoughts:
Narrated by Lia throughout, this novel squeezes your insides with horror from the opening chapter. Anderson’s narrative style is constructed so that we see the frightening pathology of anorexia nervosa right from the second chapter where Lia makes excuses for not having any breakfast:
Beacuse I can’t let myself want thembecause I don’t need a muffin (410), I don’t want an orange (75) or toast (87), and waffles (180) make me gag.”
The power of the novel is delivered through Anderson’s vivid symbolism, which conveys the impact that anorexia has on Lia and her family. Lia’s grossly distorted perceptions of herself are conveyed through her unforgiving stream of consiousness, and the chilling coldness motif which shows her physical and emotional deterioration. Anderson portrays Lia’s obsessions with weight in obvious and subtle ways, including writing the chapter numbers as though they are on a scale, and in Lia’s careful lists of food (with the calorie count always added in parentheses).
Who should read Wintergirls?
Book Snitch recommends this novel for mature YA readers.
Notes for educators
This novel doesn’t sugarcoat the reality of anorexia. The narrative is intense in several places, containing descriptions of death, physical and emotional self-harm and the supernatural.
This novel would work well as supplimentary independent reading in a unit based on the theme of identity. Book Snitch would recommend responding to the text through activities related to imagery and symbolism in Wintergirls.
One possibility is to have students create their own book trailers using Creative Commons licensed images would be a great way to see if they have understood Anderson’s use of symbolism. Alternatively, students could create their own films promoting awareness of anorexia, particularly the emotional impact it has on the sufferer and their friends and family.