Friday, January 3, 2014

Wintergirls: Laurie Halse Anderson

Random Riday Review~ Wintergirls: Laurie Halse Anderson

Rating: 9.5/10 5 stars 
Series: Standalone
Genre: Contemporary
Publication Date: March 19, 2009
Reccommended For: Fans or Ellen Hopkins, Lauren Oliver, (of course) Laurie Halse Anderson
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Page Count: 278 pages 
Format: Hardcover Library Book

Goodreads Synopsis: “Dead girl walking,” the boys say in the halls.
“Tell us your secret,” the girls whisper, one toilet to another.
I am that girl.
I am the space between my thighs, daylight shining through.
I am the bones they want, wired on a porcelain frame.


Lia and Cassie are best friends, wintergirls frozen in matchstick bodies, competitors in a deadly contest to see who can be the skinniest. But what comes after size zero and size double-zero? When Cassie succumbs to the demons within, Lia feels she is being haunted by her friend’s restless spirit.

In her most emotionally wrenching, lyrically written book since the multiple-award-winning Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson explores Lia’s descent into the powerful vortex of anorexia, and her painful path toward recovery.

My Background: I have to confess that at this very moment when writing this review, I don't know what format it should be in. I had thought about doing a "Literacy Lover", and had even begun writing my thoughts on the title and cover. At the same time I feel like I should write a "Language of Love" to express my feels, but this is the morning after I finished the book. So basically, I'm going to write and then figure out what category this falls under. You may ask why I am struggling so much because choosing what format should be pretty trivial, just writing what my thoughts are. The thing is that I have a very special connection with this book. A friend recommended this book to me about a year ago, after she had pretty much cleared out and read every single one of Laurie Halse Anderson's books. That friend had been going through things, and related a little to Lia's feelings. This book was a reread for me, because the first time I read it, I didn't understand it. The images were gruesome, the main character unlikable, and the story telling confusing. A lot has happened in my personal life since then, and now, when I went to the library, I felt l that I would truly understand the book. Now onto what you're probably wondering: Did I like it better the second time around? My answer is completely 100%, yes. I whizzed through the book virtually in one sitting from 11:30-2:30 am. *In the end I decided to write this review in the old Goodreads format I used to do, because even though it could almost qualify as a "Literacy Lover" I didn't rate each category, and didn't discuss every element of the book.*

In the duration of the book, Lia claims to see "ghosts", and her dead, former, best-friend Cassandra Parrish, or as her friends better knew her, Cassie. The first night after finding out the news of Cassie's death, Lia sees her for the first time. She sees Cassie come into her bedroom, enlaced with thorns, vines, and coils of barbed wire. Cassie then talks to her, and crawls into bed with her, and Lia can feel the pain or those thorns. Lia sees Cassie sit up in her coffin. Lia sees Cassie solving a crossword puzzle. Lia sees and hears Cassie when she's weakest, when she's most vulnerable. Dr. Parker, Lia's psychiatrist says that Lia "created a metaphorical universe" to "express " her "darkest fears". I think it's open to interpretation. My interpretation of the matter even before Dr. Parker's evaluation was that Cassie was a figment of Lia's imagination, that Lia had always had the self-esteem and self-image issues, and it wasn't necessarily that Cassie's death had intensified them (although there is a large chance it had), but that now Lia had a real image. Before, it was her mind telling her to exercise for hours at a time in the middle of the night, and it was her mind telling her lies about how fat and ugly she was. Now, Lia had an actual person, one that she was very close to, and one that had been a main contribution to her eating disorder and depression. I don't agree with Dr. Parker saying that Lia had created a "metaphorical universe" but I do think that Cassie was a human representation of Lia's fears and doubts.

If there is any book that will give you a serious case of "the feels" it's this one, although it may be the feels that you don't necessarily want to have. At the start of reading "Wintergirls" I was eating a bowl of ice cream, and afterwards I started shivering a little. Shivering would be normal, it was midnight, the thermostat set to 65 degrees, I had just eaten a big bowl of Cookies and Cream. The shivering didn't stop for a very long time, maybe for a hundred pages even. My point is that the cliche "getting chills sent up your spine" thing was made a reality when reading this book. The images of Lia's suffering were so graphic, that at a few times they could even be considered gruesome. Yet at the same time, they were almost beautiful. I am not saying that the results of depression are beautiful, or anything like that, for from it, as I think going through what Lia did is a horrible experience I wouldn't bestow on anyone. I am more referring to the way Anderson wrote them. The graphicness of the scenes made them real. A lot of the time, I struggle with not being able to experience things from a characters POV because I don't feel sorry for them, and don't care about what happens to them. 

My feelings about Lia as a character are extremely mixed, because even though the book was so much better the second time around, Lia as a character wasn't. What was happening to her felt so real, and I felt I could truly experience everything with her. Yet at the same time, I didn't have a connection with her. I felt very sorry for the struggle and pain she was going through, but no connection. It might be that I would have to go through the same events as she did, which I pray I will never have to do, but I didn't feel a bond with her. 

If I were asked to give evidence of Lia's character development and progression throughout the story, for a school assignment, I would have an endless amount of examples. If I were asked to draw (although I can't for the life of me) Lia's character development in the form of a stock's history, I could. You would see the stock nearer to the top, and as the story progresses, the line would dip down, and down, further, and further. There are some points at the story where a stock-holder would sell the stock for fear of losing more, and as it kept going down, the stock-holder would regret his decision not to sell it even more, until finally the stock value gets to such a point, that it can't go lower, but finally, at the end of months of struggle and loss, the stock shoots up, all because of a decision to want to get well. 

I was absolutely in love with Anderson's writing style and voice (as usual) but especially for Winteriglrls. I knew that everything Lia did was wrong, but at the same time the way she justified it, and the way that her life happened around her, out of control, seemed almost right. I know I should have felt, "Oh no, Lia don't do it. I don't want you to die." when she was feeling hopeless, but the way that Anderson made it seem, made me want to side with her, and made me think that what Lia was doing was for a purpose. I know that Lia made some very bad decisions, but the way I see it, is that if someone who had no idea what Lia was doing was wrong, and they didn't know anything about cutting or eating disorders, they would side with Lia and say she was in the right. That, I believe is a mark of a true author.  

The ending of the book was actually happy because Lia finally understood what was right for her, and that everyone around her just wanted her to be well. Lia finally came to terms with herself, and although it definitely wasn't easy, finally made the decision to want to get well. That was all that it took and was all that was needed. 

I know I have been complaining in my past few reviews that there hasn't been anything really quote-worthy. You will be happy to know that I took about 15 photos with my iPod of quotes for the horrid reading log. Most of them were the images Anderson portrayed, but a few of them were short passages from Lia's perspective (more on her perspective above). 

Conclusion: Although this book may not be for everyone, and even if someone doesn't like it, they can't admit that the story didn't somehow impact them, and that the story didn't put something into them. I loved the book so much the second time around and would highly recommend it.

This review is dedicated to Erica, who recommended Wintergirls, and made me understand what it all meant.

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