Lia is both anorexic and a cutter. In Wintergirls, she tells her story, flashing back on the defining moments of her life—her cardiac surgeon mother, a ball of perfection, needing her to do everything right; her philandering father (that is, though he’s married, he has a lot of girlfriends and sleeps around) and the fights that his behavior causes; life in the new house with her stepmother; and Lia’s friendship with Cassie, the girl across the street who is bulimic.
As the story opens, Cassie is reported dead in a hotel room. Though she and Lia haven’t spoken in months, the night before she died, Cassie tried to call Lia thirty-three times. Now Lia feels responsible for Cassie’s death, but doesn’t know what truly caused it. She is so guilty, starved, lightheaded, and suffering from low blood sugar that she hallucinates Cassie’s ghost, a figure that both frightens her and draws her toward death.
Anderson did her homework on anorexia and cutting before writing this book. She had advice from experts and folks who read her drafts. The way that Lia obsesses over her weight—and her inability to stop doing it, her inability to eat—seems very real. She repeats her self-loathing mantra—stupid, ugly, fat, stupid. She is an expert at losing weight and hiding it. Though her stepmother weighs her once a week, Lia sews quarters in her robe, drinks lots of water before the weighing. She gets down to 93 pounds, but can only think of the victory of weighing 85 pounds.
Wintergirls is a sympathetic venture into a disordered life. It will draw you in the same way that Speak does.
For the entire list of Ms. W’s ‘Young Adult’ summer reading, click here.