Lia is supposed to be recovering from severe anorexia. She is supposed to be eating, supposed to be returning to normal teenage life. And then she finds out that Cassie, her former best friend—and onetime partner in eating-disordered crime—was found dead in a motel room. And Cassie tried thirty-three times to reach Lia on her phone the night she died.
The guilt in Lia wars with near-constant obsession over calorie counts, thinness, her weight, not eating...and her parents just seem to make it worse. She's living with her father and stepmother now, and though her stepsister occasionally succeeds in breathing through her icy shell, Lia manages to keep almost everything—including her continually decreasing weight—from her family. Her mother, who is a doctor herself, doesn't seem able to reach her on an emotional level. And inside Lia is a constant swirling maelstrom of self-abuse. What she hasn't yet internalized is the idea that people DO care, and that her own self-imposed strictures are not at all healthy or noble, but rather an obsessive form of control over and punishment of herself.
This book was incredibly difficult to read, but it's an important read nonetheless. Lia is not what I would consider a sympathetic narrator—and, in fact, many times I found myself impatient with her selfishness, aggravated by her willful belief of certain illusions about the world. But Laurie Halse Anderson is amazing at not just creating but enabling us to inhabit very different sorts of characters, and I keep finding little bits of Lia sticking with me and resurfacing even weeks after I've read the book. By turns horrifying, angering, and pitiful, this story is above all else frighteningly believable.
Buy Wintergirls from an independent bookstore near you in March 2009!
This review was based on an Advance Uncorrected Copy.