Caroline the Future Librarian

Caroline Davis | LIBR 265-10 | SJSU | Wrenn-Estes

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

Title: Wintergirls
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Publisher: Speak
Date: February 2010
ISBN-13: 978-0142415573

Plot Summary: In eighth grade, Lia and her best friend Cassie made the same New Year’s resolution – to be the skinniest girl at their school.  Four years later, Cassie, who had developed severe bulimia, has died, alone in a motel, and Lia, who hadn’t even talked to her old friend in months, is battling her own demons and trying to hide her anorexia from her concerned family.  Lia, who has already been hospitalized twice because of her eating disorder, is a pro at hiding her condition – even wearing a robe with weights in the pockets when her stepmother records her weight each day.  She plans ahead to limit her caloric intake (if she eats a light dinner with her family, they might not suspect – and she can cut down breakfast and lunch the next day), and she works to achieve her ideal weight…a number that keeps shifting lower.  Now Cassie’s ghost keeps visiting her – is Lia on a path to the same fate?

Critical Evaluation: Anderson’s book really puts the reader into the mind of a girl suffering from anorexia.  When Lia thinks about the food she is offered (or that she witnesses her friends and family eating), she automatically calculates the number of calories in her head, so she can choose carefully which items she is willing to eat.  Anderson has a clever technique for helping us witness the level of control Lia exercises over her thoughts: When she thinks about certain characters, we see her immediate response, which is crossed out, and what she chooses to call them (for example, she talks about “my stepmother Jennifer” and “my mother Dr. Marrigan” – very revealing of how she is trying to distance herself from her mother and accept her stepmother).  This also reveals how she thinks about food, when her body and mind disagree (of cereal, she thinks “I could eat the entire box I probably won’t even fill the bowl”).  The novel is a fascinating peek into her distorted perspective – I just fear that teens in the same condition may read it and feel validated.

Reader’s Annotation: Even after her friend Cassie dies from bulimia, Lia doesn’t seek help for her anorexia, and continues trying to reach an ever decreasing ideal weight.  Will she experience the same fate as Cassie?

Author Information: Born in Potsam, New York, in 1961, Laurie Halse Anderson writes novels both for children and young adults.  She is best known for her 1999 novel Speak, about a teen who was raped at a party and doesn’t feel like she can talk about the experience with anyone, which was adapted into a 2004 film of the same title.

“Laurie lives in Northern New York, with her childhood sweetheart, now husband, Scot.  She has four wonderful children and a neurotic dog, all of whom she dearly loves.  When not enjoying her family and her large garden, she spends countless hours writing in a woodland cottage designed and built just for that purpose by her Beloved Husband.  She also likes to train for marathons, hike in the mountains, and try to coax tomatoes out of the rocky soil in her backyard.” (Source)

Genre: Realistic Fiction, Issues

Curriculum Ties: Health, Nutrition, Psychology

Booktalking Ideas:
1) Do you think Lia was really being haunted by Cassie or was it a hallucination?
2) Was Lia really in control of herself or was her disorder controlling her?
3) Discuss whether this book could be triggering for some readers – for example, when Lia talks about her unhealthy weight goals, could some readers aspire for that?

Interest Age: 14 and older

Challenge Issues: May be triggering

Challenge Defense Ideas:

• Become familiar with the book and its content.

• Refer to the collection development policy of the library, if none, see here to develop one right away.

• Refer to reviews from School Library Journal and Booklist available for viewing on

• Try to get reviews of the book from teens who have read it.

Selection: This book was recommended to me and I wanted to include it because I think it addresses a very important issue, particularly for teens.


Laurie Halse Anderson’s website.

Book Trailer for Wintergirls:


May 13, 2010 - Posted by | Books | ,

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