Laurie Halse Anderson’s earlier Young Adult novel, Speak, described the aftermath of a rape at a summer party. It was heartbreaking yet ultimately empowering. Although it was her first novel it quickly established her as one of the better writers in the YA genre. Her latest, Wintergirls, is another “problem novel” that could have been average if not for her lyrical writing style and ability to really get us into the head of an anorexic teen.
Lia’s voice mail was full. One message spoke: I’m so sad. I can’t get out. Lia should have answered her phone, but she was too upset. She had 33 chances that night to answer the calls from her former best friend, Cass. Instead she turned off the phone, went to bed, and Cass died all alone in her hotel room.
Now it”s getting harder for Lia to maintain her sanity and her impossible goal of weighing 85.00 (she always weighs herself to the hundredth decimal place) pounds with the ghost of bulimic Cass popping in and out. Lia understands what it means to weigh so little but her brain just won’t allow her to put food in her stomach. 85.00 is dangerland. 85.00 is Fourth of July fireworks in a small metal box.
Anderson is truly in command in this novel, utilizing simple stylistic tricks such as strikethroughs (
example) to illustrate Lia’s internal self-censorship, while effortlessly playing with language. Warning to the reader: set aside the whole evening and keep the tissues nearby. It’s refreshing to read a novel geared for teens that has such high literary quality while still remaining accessible for the audience!