When I first began reading Wintergirls, by Laurie Halse Anderson, I almost returned the book to the library. It is morose, it is chilling, it is frightening because it strikes so close to home in its truth.
Lia and Cassie have been friends forever. In high school, they enter into a pact to see who can lose the most weight the quickest. However, by the time both are totally caught up in the throes of anorexia, they have a falling out, and refuse to speak to each other. Before long, Cassie is found dead, alone, in a motel room...where she had called and texted Lia 33 times, but Lia refused to listen or read the calls until after she found out that her best friend was dead.
Cassie's death sends an already fragile Lia into a morass of painful self-destruction. Cassie ( who died as a result of a ruptured esophagus, in turn a result of violent bulima) becomes a ghost who haunts Lia and tries to draw her even further down into self-destruction. Lia's parents and step-mother are too busy and self-involved to really see what is going on with her, especially since she convinces them she is gaining weight...merely by adding clothing before she weighs. Finally, it is her art teacher who begins to slowly nudge her back from the edge of death.
This is not a story for the faint-hearted, nor should it be read in the midst of feeling "blue." But it is a marvelous book, written with understanding, sensitivity and passion from a first-person present-tense point of view. It is a book to be read by any parent who knows or believes that her/his daughter in involved in anorexia or bulimia. It is a book to be read by any teen who is considering trying to be "the skinniest person in school" or who, perhaps, is already experiencing the mentality of anorexia...where every bite of food is not to be thought of in terms of name, type or nutrition, but merely as a caloric number...the lower the better. It is a book to be read by every teen who believes that self-perception is tied to being thin, the thinner the better, and who is already exploring the caverns of self-starvation and the painful disconnection between perception and reality.
A hard-to-read book, but one which is even harder to stop reading.