‘Wintergirls’ is not just a really good and realistic novel about a young girls complicated relationship to her parents and vice versa. It’s also a kind of a crime/mystery, because Lia in the secret wants to find out how Cassie died. This combination made it both a pageturner and unforgettable.

by Peter




Laurie Halse Anderson



Reading Level:

Advanced Beginner

First Published:

March 19th 2009

Publisher, this copy:


Feelings Thermometer:

18 year old Lia lives in the town of Amoskeag, in New Hampshire, US, with her father, her fathers new wife, Jennifer, and Jennifers daughter from her last marriage, Emma.

Lia can’t live with Dr. Marrigan, who’s actually her mom, but Lia likes to call her Doctor, because she thinks that everything that counts for her mom, is her own career. And when they actually live together, they start fighting about how much — or rather how little — Lia’s eating.

At dad’s, Jennifer is the one in charge, because dad is also always working, and Jennifer isn’t quite as tough as Dr. Marrigan. Of course it’s a lot easier for Lia to hide her low calorie intake, when she gets to eat alone, but when dad and Jennifer insists that they eat together at the dinner table — also because they think Lia might have dropped weight — Lia still has several tricks to distract the family from noticing how little she’s actually putting in her mouth.

Excerpt from ‘Wintergirls’

Jennifer stands up. The fabric of her skirt is pulled so tight over her thighs, the pockets gape open. She tries to smooth out the wrinkles. “Don’t let Emma con you into buying chips before practice. If she’s hungry, she can have a friut cup.”
“Should I stick around and drive her home?”
She shakes her head. “The grants will do it.” She takes her coat off the back of the chair, puts her arms in the sleeves, and starts to button up. “Why don’t you have one of the muffins? I bought oranges yesterday, or you could have toast or frozen waffles.”
Because I can’t let myself want them because I don’t need a muffin (410), I don’t want an orange (75) or toast (87), and waffles (180) make me gag.
I point to the empty bowl on the counter, next to the huddle of pill bottles and the Bluberridazzlepops box.
“I’m having cereal.”
Her eyes dart to the cabinet where she had taped up my meal plan. It came with the discharge papers when I moved in six months ago. I took it down three months later, om my eighteenth birtday.
“That’s too small to be a full serving,” she say carefully.
I could eat the entire box I probably won’t even fill the bowl.
“My stomach’s upset.”

At the very first chapter we hear, that Lia’s former friend Cassie has died alone in a motel room. No one knows how she died, but the only important thing for Lia, is that she knows that Cassie tried to call her several times that evening and night, but Lia didn’t wanna pick up, because she was so tired of Cassie’s behavior. And the next morning she was found dead.

When Jennifer, dad, mom, or the school nurse asks how Lia feels about it — everyone knows that Lia and Cassie were bff’s from childhood and that both suffers from eating disorders — Lia just shrugs it off and says that her and Cassie wasn’t even friends anymore and hadn’t been for a long time.

But inside, it’s clear that Lia is devastated. Her confidence was not high to start with, and this — the she’s to blame about Cassies death — is worse than unbearable. She knows she has to repress the truth and focus even more on her weight. But it the background Dr. Marrigan has eyes on her and threatening hospitalization if Lia doesn’t gain weight.

Lia’s life couldn’t be any worse.

Dont’ be scared – it’s not a painful melodrama

If you haven’t ever read a book about eating disorders, you should definitely start with ‘Wintergirls’. It’s an easy and very exciting read, and it proves that Young Adult novels about severe diagnoses, doesn’t have to painful melodramas with stereotypical characters and exaggerated conflicts and emotions. But John Green already did prove that to you with ‘The Fault in our Stars’, didn’t he?

In many ways, ‘Wintergirls’ is a more realistic and far less romantic novel than TFIOS, but I almost liked it better, because it learned me about the true feelings behind eating disorders, and it showed me how it could be to a real girl. Not just a very lucky fictional girl with perfect parents.

Forbidden thoughts

Laurie Halse Anderson uses a lot of ways to express Lia’s feelings, but the best was through Lia’s thoughts. Because she has two sets of thoughts. Thoughts that are shown as striked out text Like This, and the thoughts she’s allowed to think. It was two completely different worlds, and even though it’s a very direct — and to some maybe even a bit clumsy literary way — to describe Lia, it’s also a brave and creative way to do it. And after a few sentences, where you have to get used to the text striked out, it actually worked so well.

A complicated jigsaw puzzle with difficult emotions

So — do not fear a great, thrilling, young adult novel, because eating disorders occur. It is not a contagious disease that will contaminate your mind while or after reading. The eating disorders are only symptoms of a complicated jigsaw puzzle with difficult emotions, and it’s very hard to resolve. But if we talk and read about those feelings, perhaps we are approaching some solutions or at least a better understanding of ourselves. So give ‘Wintergirls’ a go. If you like contemporary novels, this is one you’ll never forget.