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Lia and Cassie are best friends, wintergirls frozen in fragile bodies, competitors in a deadly contest to see who can be the thinnest. But then Cassie suffers the ultimate loss—her life—and Lia is left behind, haunted by her friend's memory, and feeling guilty for not being able to help save her.

In her most powerfully moving novel since Speak, award-winning author, Laurie Halse Anderson explores Lia's struggle, her painful path to recovery, and her desperate attempts to hold on to the most important thing of all—hope.

278 pages, Hardcover

First published March 19, 2009

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About the author

Laurie Halse Anderson

82 books16.6k followers

UPDATE! SHOUT, my memoir in verse, is out, has received 9 starred reviews, and was longlisted for the National Book Award!

For bio stuff: Laurie Halse Anderson is a New York Times bestselling author whose writing spans young readers, teens, and adults. Combined, her books have sold more than 8 million copies. Her new book, SHOUT, a memoir-in-verse about surviving sexual assault at the age of thirteen and a manifesta for the #MeToo era, has received widespread critical acclaim and appeared on the New York Times bestseller list for seven consecutive weeks.

Laurie has been nominated for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award four times. Two of her books, Speak and Chains, were National Book Award finalists, and Chains was short-listed for the prestigious Carnegie medal. Two more books, Shout and The Impossible Knife of Memory, were long-listed for the National Book Award. Laurie was selected by the American Library Association for the 2009 Margaret A. Edwards Award and has been honored for her battles for intellectual freedom by the National Coalition Against Censorship and the National Council of Teachers of English.

In addition to combating censorship, Laurie regularly speaks about the need for diversity in publishing and is a member of RAINN’s National Leadership Council. She lives in Philadelphia, where she enjoys cheesesteaks while she writes. Find out more about Laurie by following her on Twitter at @halseanderson, Instagram at halseanderson, and Facebook at lauriehalseanderson, or by visiting her website, madwomanintheforest.com.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 9,932 reviews
Profile Image for kari.
849 reviews
April 11, 2014
I didn't care for the writing style, all the crossed out words just felt like an unneccessary affectation that slowed down the pace of the book. The chapter headings 001.00, etc were a distraction that took me several chapters to even realize what the numbers meant. The descriptions are ugly.
I didn't make any connection to Lia and never grew to like her. As written, her character seemed like a spoiled rich brat who was not even kind enough to pick up the phone to speak to the parents of her dead best friend, even when the girl's mother is begging her.
She is willing to run off with a young man that she barely knows or likes in order to not have to face the consequences of what she's done to herself. She uses him to get what she wants/needs without giving him even a tiny bit of honesty until she is forced to do so. None of the things she does make me understand her or like her. I simply never grew to care whether or not she got well and had this book been successful for me, I should have cared.
Lia makes reference to the fact that she knows she is starving herself so she isn't acting out of unawareness or confusion, she simply doesn't care if she's hurting herself or her family or anyone. Her attitude toward her parents is heartless and cold, although all they try to do throughout the entire book is help her. She blames them for her illness and doesn't ever seem to take responsibility for it on herself. A quote from the end of the book: "The tiny elf dancer became a wooden doll whose strings were jerked by people not paying attention."
That seems to say that she still isn't responisible for what she did to herself, if they'd been paying more attention to her, instead of trying to get her to be what they wanted or pursuing their careers, she wouldn't have gotten sick, in her opinion. I'm sure there are many better books about anorexia. This reads like a manual on how to be anorexic. For me this one is a don't bother to read it.

NOTE: For anyone who wants to rip into me and tell me that I don't know anything about eating disorders. Well, you don't know me and you don't know what I do or do not know about eating disorders. You don't know what personal experience I might or might not have. So I'd appreciate it, if that's your only intent, if you didn't leave a comment telling me what a bad person I am for not liking a fictional story.
My review of a BOOK is not intended to put down or de-value anyone. A careful reading of the review would make it clear that I did not care for the way the author chose to portray this character, not that I was putting her down for having an eating disorder. Let me say that again. If Lia was an alcoholic, chocoholic, shopaholic, drug addict, sex addict, hoarder, snowboarder, prom queen, cheerleader or any other kind of character, I still would NOT have enjoyed the way the story and charcter was presented. I hope that's clear.
This isn't an autobiography or Lia's real-life memoirs. It's made up, a story, fiction, not true. There are characters in many books that, for whatever reason, are not likeable. For me, personally, Lia is one of them.
Any further comments that are merely tearing into me about what I do or not know, any personal attacks, are not productive. Name calling and hurling insults isn't adding anything to the discussion. If you want to discuss the book, I'll gladly do that. Thanks
Profile Image for Emma Giordano.
316 reviews115k followers
December 31, 2016
4.5 Stars! This book was a really emotional read for me. It's been recommended to me a million times over and I'm so glad I finally picked it up.

The writing in this book was incredible. Everything flowed together perfectly and it was more like reading a masterpiece than just reading a book. I'm extremely impressed with the way the author was able to capture all of Lia's experiences with the perfect words, words that fit together so flawlessly it's impossible for them to be described any other way.

The portrayal of eating disorders in this book is also PHENOMENAL. I'm truly amazed this isn't an own voices novel with how accurately the author was able to capture the experience of suffering from such a life-altering disorder. Lia's voice is the voice of an anorexic to a "t"; The anger, the bitterness, the resentment, the cold-hearted carelessness was so true, it's almost frightening.

"I want to eat like a normal person eats, but I need to see my bones or I will hate myself even more and I might cut out my heart or take every pill that was ever made."

This is the reality I struggle to live with every single day and I am so grateful someone was able to capture it so precisely.

I'm also so thankful this book showed the truly horrifying reality of eating disorders; This is a fatal illness. There are a ton of fictitious works with eating disorders out there, but I don't believe I know of one that incorporates the real consequences of this disorder. Cassie's death, especially the cause, was a crucial part of not only the plot of this story, but why I feel this is such an important read. There's absolutely NO glorification of this illness, and this novel did a fantastic job at showing how dangerous it can be. I can't stress enough how wonderful this representation of EDs was to me and how grateful I am this book exists.

The only issue I have with this book is a personal one, and that is how many flashbacks were included. In the beginning of the book, I felt every 5 or so pages I was reading another flashback, which is a bit excessive for my reading tastes. I understand flashbacks are sometimes necessary to fully tell a story, as they are in this novel as well. I just personally prefer novels more focused in the present, and I felt the first half of the book relied very heavily on flashbacks I wasn't too keen on reading.

Luckily, the book really picked up for me in the second half. We shy away from the past and move into the approaching end to the story, which was really amazing. This is where we truly see the raw emotion and authenticity of Lia's character & how her illness really affects her. The second half of this book is where I feel it really flourishes and develops into the extremely powerful novel that it is. If it has one final flaw, the ending felt slightly abrupt and I would have loved to see how things progresses from where we end, but I understand the significance of the point the book ended at, so either way, I'm satisfied.

Overall, I really loved this book. I seriously felt identified and really saw myself in Lia, which I am inherently grateful for. I do agree with the endless trigger warnings placed on this novel because like many great mental health novels, the content is so authentic, it may be more harmful than helpful. But if you are in a healthy mindset and looking to either learn more about eating disorders or relate to a book based off of your own experiences, Wintergirls is at the top of my recommendations list.
Profile Image for Sarah.
Author 80 books46k followers
February 26, 2009
I was lucky enough to get an early copy of this book, as Laurie and I share a publisher. It is so, so good. The voice is unique, the style like a puzzle and a poem, all at once. Highly recommended. I think it will be HUGE with teenage girls.
Profile Image for Megs ♥.
160 reviews1,284 followers
March 14, 2012

Who exactly are the Wintergirls? They are Lia and Cassie. Cassie is a pretty girl who started battling bulimia at a very young age, and at the beginning of our story was found dead in a motel room. Lia is her former best friend who is still battling anorexia, and has to deal with getting weighed weekly by her well-meaning step mother, and also has the guilt constantly in her mind knowing that Cassie had called her. 35 times. Right before she died. The details of her death have not yet been released, but as Lia goes to the wake and funeral she is reminded of her once strong, but toxic friendship with Cassie. As the story progresses Lia is left to wonder a few things. How did Cassie actually die? Could she have saved her if she answered the phone?

This was a haunting story that discussed, in disturbing detail, how it feels to be trapped inside your own mind. Lea doesn't really see food as food. She sees a scrambled egg as "yellow" or "71" for the calories it contains. Wintergirls provides an in-depth look into eating disorders, and it does not hold back or sugar coat anything. The emotional and physical aspects of both diseases are explored in such an amazing way. You see the story unfold, and you know that the author is trying to show the horrors of eating disorders, but the book never feels preachy. The parents' concerns even come out in a way where you understand them, and not resent them as being simply annoying parents. Lia's protests don't make you feel like she is being a typical rebellious teen, either. We are inside her head hearing the inner monolog, and I found this fascinating to read about. A complaint that I have seen about this book is the fact that the author never really explains what has caused Lia to be the way that she is. For me that wasn't an issue, however, because I saw her as a person with serious mental issues, and honestly sometimes there is no good reason for demons to haunt us. If the author went another way and made Lia a character who was abused or mistreated simply to give her a reason to hate her life this story would have been less unique in my opinion.

I loved this author's writing style. She kind of has a Chuck Palahnuik feel with the repetitions, and vivid, weird descriptions. She used several tools such as the strike out, repetitions and numbers, which I have seen some people say were distracting, but they didn't really bother me. As you know from my Shatter Me review these kinds of things can really annoy me if they are overused, but I think in this story they were okay used in moderation and never really made me lose focus on the plot.

For a story about such a depressing subject the book didn't make me feel very depressed. Yes, I felt bad for Lia, and her everyday struggles, but overall I kept hope that she would eventually get recovered. It made me think back to high school and remember friendships I had that may have not been the healthiest friendships, but they still in some way helped me to be the person I am today. This is a book I won't soon forget.

The absolute only thing I didn't like about this book was contained in the ending. It's not really a spoiler, but since it's at the end I will put it here:

I thought this was a good book. I read it in one day, and I would recommend it to fans of Ellen Hopkins. I will definitely be checking out more books from this author.
99 reviews12 followers
March 26, 2009
Laurie Halse Anderson sinks her teeth into writes about eating disorders in this one. She distracts from the too-familiar story and flat characters uses lots of "clever" formatting, including numbers/tiny text/three guesses

This could have been a good book if Anderson had spent less time being "clever" and more time creating solid characters that would have strengthened a story that's been told plenty of times before.

Profile Image for edh.
178 reviews9 followers
February 8, 2009
I initially found this book to be absolutely repulsive - the narrative was suffused with this sense that something was hideously wrong, and the devices that Anderson was using to describe narrator Lia's reality hinted at a disturbing mania. As it turns out, this is exactly right - Lia's sense of self was damaged even before her former best friend Cassie died alone and in pain. Their partnership was a deathly one; both girls aspired to be the skinniest as they struggled to grasp their way into adolescence, both traumatized by events from the past. Lia's choice was starvation. Cassie's was purging. Now that Lia is left to pursue the goal alone, ghosts rise up unbidden and voices haunt her days and nights. The loudest and most horrific is, of course, Cassie reminding her that they have a pact and that she is waiting for Lia between the veil of this world and the next.

Anderson does an incredible job of portraying mental illness and eating disorders, opening a door for readers into the inner hell of sufferers.
Profile Image for Karin.
Author 15 books237 followers
December 10, 2008
Lia fights a war every day.

A war with herself.

A war with food.

At 95 pounds she still feels fat. When she looks in the mirror she sees the pockets of fat hanging on her body. Everyone else is just blind. Two stays in a treatment facility hasn’t cured her; it just forced her to develop techniques to survive in a world of food. She picks the bruised apples at lunch so she has an excuse to cut some of it off, she sews quarters in the lining of her robe to add weight when she has to stand on the scale in front of her stepmother, and she cuts herself – just little cuts in order to let the pain leak out of her body.

When Lia learns that Cassie, her best friend, has been found dead in a motel room, maintaining any healthy habit is extremely difficult. Not only does she have to listen to her own voice obsessing about every calorie of food she consumes; now she has to deal with Cassie making her ghostly appearances and cheering her on and encouraging her to get skinnier so Lia can join Cassie on the “other side.”

Lia must decide where she wants to be – in the world with the living or stuck in the frozen world where she has trapped herself.

Laurie Halse Anderson has done it again. With this being the tenth anniversary of the release of SPEAK, it is a wonderful time for WINTERGIRLS to debut. It is an extremely powerful and honest look at the life of an anorexic girl. You will be choked up and at a loss for words by the time you get to the final page.
Profile Image for karen.
3,988 reviews170k followers
September 23, 2010

ariel says everyone loves this book, and that's probably true, these girls today are probably super-drawn to this kind of story. it's not bad, i just already have a favorite teen-problem-novel about anorexia, one that doesn't have the voice of this narrator, who was so immersed in her dreamworld, she frequently spoke in this forced-poetic voice that i found distracting:

"used to be that my whole body was my canvas - hot cuts lick my ribs, ladder rungs climbing my arms, thick milkweed stalks shooting up my thighs. when i moved to jenniferland, my father made one condition. a daughter who forgets how to eat, well that was bad, but it was just a phase and i was over it. but a daughter who opens her own skin bag, wanting to let her shell fall to the ground so she can dance? that was just sick."

"my hands read a braille map hewn from bone, starting with my hollow breasts threaded with blue-vein rivers thick with ice. i count my ribs like rosary beads, muttering incantations, fingers curling under the bony cage. they can almost touch what's hiding inside."

for me, that voice gets old pretty quick. and the constant crossouts (not pictured); it stands out and makes the layout eye-catching, but not in a positive way, to my elderly eye.

i honestly don't understand anorexia. me, i have no discipline. i lack the amount of self-control it takes to not eat the entire pint of ice cream. and even with all of the political/social pressure, i lack the interest/willpower to stop eating fuzzy baby animals. so the rigorous scrutiny of everything that passes the lips of the anorectic, the obsessing and calorie-memorizing and constant vigilance. shit, i'm in grad school, i don't need anything else to think about, for reals. why can't these girls channel this energy into something awesome, like painting or science and bridge-building? i know it is more complicated than all that, but it just seems exhausting and more trouble than it is worth.

this put a nice twist on the teenorexia novel; the way it takes it a step further and really plays upon the character's perceived culpability in the death of her best friend, which is of course a factor in her own illness, but is also a whole other potential novel. so i liked the layering of two different enmeshed problems - i appreciated its ambition, but ultimately i prefer my old tried and true book from my junior high "be aware fair".

i want to like her books so much, and there are still three i plan to read, but so far, the two i have read have seemed like books teen girls would really respond to, but i just can't get into.

but greg - sheesh - speak is like his all time favorite. he is such a girl. but not a little gollum-girl:

78 reviews21 followers
October 13, 2014
I'm surprised there is so little criticism of this book!

I don't normally write reviews, but I finished the book a couple weeks ago and have been letting my thoughts simmer, unable to just forget it. Amazon seems to have eaten my review (maybe it will be posted in a couple days?). I decided to look for more dissenting opinions on here.

4 or 5 stars for great writing. Anderson creates a page turner and certainly has an admirable command of language.

2 stars for depth.

Most articles and even many books about eating disorders focus on the horror! and the drama! and the hospitalizations! and the emaciation! of it all, making diseases like anorexia sound like sickly appealing bids for popularity. Anderson goes a little beyond that, but not far.

I can't really say that anything in this book is _wrong_. The obsessive thoughts and messages running through Lia's head are dead-on. Her behaviors are textbook, and the degradation of her body is sadly a reality for many.

We sense that something is not quite right in Lia's world, but Anderson never gives us enough information to speculate as to what's fueling the obsession. We see that Lia is grieving, we see that she hates her family, we see that her self esteem is cripplingly low - but there's not much more to her than that. The reader is likely to interpret her feelings as little more than ordinary teenage angst - when eating disorders are much more than that.

I hesitate to write this, because there is no one-size-fits-all description of someone with anorexia or bulimia. But I do wonder at the stereotypes Anderson chooses to embrace and reject. Here's what we know about Cassie: she's an over-extended people-pleaser very involved in her community, but she has low self esteem. All of that sounds like textbook bulimia. Lia, on the other hand, is rich, unhappy, and the daughter of divorced parents. That's about all we know about her outside of her obsession with food and weight-loss. I seriously reject the notion that only rich girls develop anorexia. A stereotype that is commonly true of anorectics, though, is that they are perfectionists, and many are overachievers. Lia is none of these things - and although those aren't requirements for anorexia, Anderson doesn't give us anything else to go on. Lia doesn't care about her grades, doesn't care about pissing people off, doesn't want to go to college, doesn't really do anything or hold any aspirations other than her next goal weight. And while eating disorders commonly do reach this life-consuming point, we never get a glimpse of what Lia is aside from a series of behaviors and pounds lost.

To her credit, Anderson includes a paragraph or two describing anxiety. I respect her hesitation to avoid spelling out the lesson to be learned or gift-wrapping the text. But as a writer, Anderson fails to dig. The novel is more like a circus - strange and fascinating to watch, but several steps short of revealing.

To be fair, the novel _is_ accurate. It just isn't enough. I am really amazed by reviewers who say, "Wow, now I understand anorexia!" when Anderson describes only the obsessive thoughts in Lia's head (of course we have no idea why or how they got there) and the way she behaved in response to those thoughts. Readers, whether they know much or little about eating disorders, won't walk away having gained more insight than an article on Lindsay Lohan would give them.

Anderson notes that she interviewed clinicians and visited pro anorexia websites during her research. I just don't feel that that was sufficient. People who are pro eating disorders are sure to love this book the way they love Wasted, but unlike Wasted, we see only the train wreck - without insight.

P.S. If I am going to nitpick insignificant details, here they are:
1) The police scene is not believable. You can access your voice mail from any phone. So they for sure would have investigated the messages further.
2) The car running out of gas (Lia of course drove it on empty for many miles) is too much of a forced, obvious metaphor for me, and Anderson seems a little too proud of this contrived feat.
3) The relationships are stiff. Not stiff the way a real relationship can be, but stiff the way they are written.

For real, Anderson is a gifted writer. But I think there is more to great literature than a captivating narrative.
Profile Image for Anne .
183 reviews264 followers
February 9, 2016
I ship this book. Ship! Ship!! Ship!!!



Before I go further, before I'm made out to be insensitive, these are things you need to know.




Now that that's out of the way...


"Dead girl walking”, the boys say in the halls.
“Tell us your secret”, the girls whisper, one toilet to another.
I am that girl.
I am the space between my thighs, daylight shining through.
I am the bones they want, wired on a porcelain frame.

Lia is that girl. She has to be the skinniest of them all, and she'll hurt her body in all the ways possible just to wear that skinny crown. She looks at food and all she sees are numbers. Calories and numbers, numbers and calories. Counting and starving are two of the things she shares with her best friend, together they're the Wintergirls. But Lia's better, better at counting, and so much better at starving. The story opens with her best friend's sudden death which leaves Lia shackled alone, and lost in the gravity of a disease they once shared.
And so Lia tries to find her way.

Knowing me, you had to know this was coming.



So we're almost 30 pages into the book when this conversation takes place.
Appetite: I seriously don't get it.
Me: I don't get it too
Appetite: You know it's stupid
Me: Very.
Appetite: What are we having for dinner?
Me: Everything.

We both know the only time I become anorexic is after I've eaten to my gluttonous content and then eaten some more just to convince myself that I shouldn't eat some more. But we don't quit. We don't quit because we do want to get it.

About 50 pages later, I can't help it, I get so frustrated with Lia and I just have to say it


I'm almost ready to give up when it happens, almost 200 pages into the book, I believe. Somehow my appetite falls along the way or maybe I do(the deafened part of me). And finally:
▶ I don't empathize
▶ I don't sympathize.
▶ I don't even try to justify.
I just believe.

Lia made me see and believe in the gravity of her disorder.

I believe in the power of lack of will power and in the debilitating, unrelenting voices which threaten to drown out everything else, poisoning and weakening your resolve as they echo and bounce around in your head.
I believe in the surprising and occasional comfort the ground offers, deceiving you into never finding your feet and rising up again. That's just it, Lia made me believe in her story. And finally I found myself yelling: You can do it! You can do it, Lia. You can. Don't listen to those voices saying you can't. Don't let them eat you up. Don't let them take what's left of you.

Lia just grew so much. So freaking much. Funny thing is while I was reading, I couldn't see it, I didn't notice the little shifts, the little shaky steps she took towards becoming free. I guess it's this thing where we always expect to see the change when it happens, for it to be some great defining moment - something we can pinpoint and link a memory to. But it wasn't so, and It isn't always so.
It's possible people won't get this book the way I do, not everyone will understand Lia. I didn't, not at first. Actually not at all. But the truth of her story, the moral of it, is such an urgent and imparting one . The topic of anorexia is not something I really thought I'd ever read about. Coupled with loss, honestly it's not something to pick up lightly. But I loved this story all the more for it's dark and somber quality.
I'll believe anyone who says the writing isn't spectacular or magnificent, or in contrasting view, may be it's overly poetic. I'll concur and go right ahead and nod if someone said parts of this book were annoying and the plot twist wasn't hair-raising and jaw-dropping enough. But I'll answer right back and say: This isn't meant to entertain you, it's meant to bring you right back down to earth, and remind you that there are some things that are beyond our understanding. And that's okay. But the thing is to listen . Even if that's the only thing you can do, listen and not judge what you can't understand.

▶ There is no magic cure, no making it all go away forever. There are only small steps upward; an easier day, an unexpected laugh, a mirror that doesn't matter anymore.

▶ I am beginning to measure myself in strength, not pounds. Sometimes in smiles.

▶ In one aspect, yes, I believe in ghosts, but we create them. We haunt ourselves.

Do I want to die from the inside out or the outside in?

▶ I am spinning the silk threads of my story, weaving the fabric of my world...I spun out of control. Eating was hard. Breathing was hard. Living was hardest.

I wanted to swallow the bitter seeds of forgetfulness...Somehow, I dragged myself out of the dark and asked for help.

I spin and weave and knit my words and visions until a life starts to take shape.

There is no magic cure, no making it all go away forever. There are only small steps upward; an easier day, an unexpected laugh, a mirror that doesn't matter anymore.

I am thawing

▶ I failed eating, failed drinking, failed not cutting myself into shreds. Failed friendship. Failed sisterhood and daughterhood. Failed mirrors and scales and phone calls. Good thing I'm stable

▶ Why? You want to know why?

Step into a tanning booth and fry yourself for two or three days. After your skin bubbles and peels off, roll in coarse salt, then pull on long underwear woven from spun glass and razor wire. Over that goes your regular clothes, as long as they are tight.

Smoke gunpowder and go to school to jump through hoops, sit up and beg, and roll over on command. Listen to the whispers that curl into your head at night, calling you ugly and fat and stupid and bitch and whore and worst of all, "a disappointment." Puke and starve and cut and drink because you don't want to feel any of this. Puke and starve and drink and cut because you need the anesthetic and it works. For a while. But then the anesthetic turns into poison and by then it's too late because you are mainlining it now, straight into your soul. It is rotting you and you can't stop.

Look in a mirror and find a ghost. Hear every heartbeat scream that everysinglething is wrong with you.

"Why?" is the wrong question.

Ask "Why not?

▶ Why are you being so mean?"
"Friends tell friends the truth."
"yeah, but not to hurt, to help.”

I want to go to sleep and not wake up, but I don't want to die. I want to eat like a normal person eats, but I need to see my bones or I will hate myself even more and I might cut my heart out or take every pill that was ever made.

▶ For one moment we are not failed tests and broken condoms and cheating on essays; we are crayons and lunch boxes and swinging so high our sneakers punch holes in the clouds.
Profile Image for Zoë.
328 reviews65.8k followers
December 6, 2014
WOW. Laurie Halse Anderson knows how to write a good and powerful book!
Profile Image for Mary Books and Cookies.
568 reviews407 followers
December 5, 2015
Reread in December 2015

This left me so fucked up.
I have no clue how to begin. I don’t think I ever read a book that left me so lost, for lack of a better word. I’m numb and astonished and a heap of other feelings I can’t even try to begin to explain. I felt physically uncomfortable while reading it and I felt so so sad throughout it. Just, simply put, an overwhelming feeling of sadness and helplessness was always with me. It’s that need you feel as a reader to shield the characters you read about and to save them, but you realize there isn’t anything you can do, but read on.

Wintergirls tells the story of Lia, a high school senior who struggles with anorexia. Her best friend, Cassie, who suffers from bulimia, dies and the night that happens, she calls Lia 33 times, but Lia doesn’t pick up. As the story progresses, things get worse and worse for her - she feels guilty for Cassie’s death, she is haunted by the demons in her head, by the demons of her illness, and she unravels.

One thing that is very important is that this book does not glamorize eating disorders. They are shown with all the ugliness they have - and trust me, there is so, so much ugliness in them, and it shows that they are not a whim, they are not a trend, they are an illness and, like with many illnesses, they take over your life and you lose yourself in them. I saw Lia struggle so much, and I felt for her and for her family. It’s frightening to see her shrink more and more with every page, see her lie to everyone around her, see her not want to get better, because she hates herself. Food is the enemy, it is pain, she sees herself as “stupid/ugly/stupid/bitch/stupid/fat/ stupid/baby/stupid/loser/stupid/lost”. She feels undeserving, she feels guilty for Cassie’s death, she feels alone, misunderstood, and…lost. She has so much pain cooped up inside, that she resorts to self harm in order to feel…something, to let the pain out. The people around her, although they want to help, at one point, they’d just rather ignore what’s in front of them and pretend that things are okay, instead of pushing harder and get Lia the help that she so desperately needs.

This book scared me so much. It’s such a raw, unfiltered look into the world of eating disorders. It’s a huge wake up call to anyone who might think it’s a good idea to try something like that and it doesn’t shy away from anything. I was hovering on the edge of anorexia back in high school, although I didn’t know that back then. I exercised a lot, I ate less and less and I saw myself as fat, even though I weighed about 100 lbs (45 kg) at a height of 5′6″ (168 cm). Thankfully, I woke up and never jumped that line. But reading this, it made me think - where would I be now if I didn’t have that wake up call?

Exceptionally well researched and written, it’s one of Anderson’s best works. It flows beautifully, it’s haunting, moving and powerful. It may save a life.

Favourite quotes:

“We turned us into wintergirls, and when she tried to leave, I pulled her back into the snow because I was afraid to be alone.”

“I spin and weave and knit my words and visions until a life starts to take shape.”

July 1, 2021

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DNF @ p.34

I've been on a Laurie Halse Anderson binge as part of this project. (I'm sure some of you are tired of hearing me talk about The Project™ and I'm sorry, but I am a book hoarder and this is my way of letting go and saying goodbye to some of my books-- giving them a final send-off, if you will, before turning them over to a new owner.) So far, most of her books have held up reasonably well. I even enjoyed the relatively unpopular PROM and CATALYST.

WINTERGIRLS is a story about eating disorders. It is incredibly triggering, I think, because it has a lot about weight and calorie counting and the main girl's friend actually dies, so she's also trying to deal with her grief over that while managing her ED. I remember really liking this book a lot when I had depression. I think it's because the lack of control is a theme in this book and when you're depressed, you feel totally lacking in control: of your feelings, of your body, of your life. Even though I didn't have an ED, the MC's hopelessness and focus on her internal states really resonated with me.

Rereading this book, I found that I couldn't quite relate to it the same way as I did in my late teens/early twenties. That's probably a good thing, though. I'd like to think that it means I'm a well-adjusted thirty-something. WINTERGIRLS has a totally different tone than the other Anderson books I've read. They all had this snark to balance out the hopelessness, but WINTERGIRLS is just pure hopelessness. I'm sure it will be solace for some but I just couldn't get into it now. I gave it four stars when I read it for the first time but now I'm giving it a two. I could barely find the will to read it. It's too bleak. YMMV.

2 stars
Profile Image for Helene Jeppesen.
688 reviews3,626 followers
January 1, 2017
This was my first read by Laurie Halse Anderson and I now see why people love her writing so much. She has a way of explaining inner thoughts in beautiful and heart-breaking words and phrases, and while the language is poetic it doesn't drown the actual story.
"Wintergirls" deals with anorexia and bulemia all at once. It's a very strong and impactful story; especially, I would imagine, if you read it as a young adult which this novel is targeted towards. However, you can obviously still read it as an adult and be disturbed and impacted by it. It is an eye-opener when it comes to what anoxeria does to your body and your mind, because it is a scary and honest insight into the protagonist's Lia's thoughts on food and weight and everything body-related.
I think this book was special because it was so raw, but also because of its language. Laurie Halse Anderson is a master at her craft, and as mentioned earlier I definitely agree with everyone who claims that she writes beautiful, yet haunting stories.
Profile Image for Kathryn.
169 reviews292 followers
April 4, 2018
In a world riddled with made-for-tv, paint-by-numbers eating disorder cliche, Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson separates itself from the pack.

The set-up is standard: Lia is the caucasian, teenaged daughter of divorced parents. Much shock, much surprise. As the book opens, Lia is reeling from the loss of her estranged bestie, Cassie. Cassie, our token warning sign in human form, died suddenly after making repeated, unanswered calls to Lia. 33, in fact. Thankfully, that’s where the cliches stop. Anderson goes on to deliver a stark, heart-wrenching account of Lia’s decision to survive or succumb to this frequently misunderstood disorder.

Laurie Halse Anderson is an undoubtedly beautiful writer. Her spare prose brilliantly captures Lia’s internal warfare. Lia wants to eat, but her disease forbids it. Eating disorders are rarely about food. Food is simply the manifestation of a greater problem. Wintergirls recognizes this issue and instead explores the reasons Lia starved behind. By attempting this feat, Anderson has created a nuanced portrait of a teenager locked in a life or death battle. But without the Danny Tanner, come-to-Jesus speech. THANK LOKI.

To sum up: Highly recommended for teens interested in or struggling with an eating disorder. Or anyone because it's just....so. dang. good.
Profile Image for Kate (beautifulbookland).
372 reviews117 followers
November 1, 2017
Anorexia rated this book 4 stars. Me? I rate it 1 because it’s SO FUCKING TRIGGERING AND DANGEROUS.

I read this book when I was in the grips of anorexia, before I was hospitalised. And the amount of fuel this gave me, the amount of passages I had highlighted to act at ‘inspiration’ is ridiculous.

Maybe it’s because I couldn’t have cared less about recovering when I read this, but I can’t actually remember her recovering? I just remember her deciding to recover, and then the end.

Profile Image for sarah.
404 reviews268 followers
May 16, 2020
this book broke my heart. and I can't decide if I liked it.

It has been almost a month since I read Wintergirls and I still don't know how to feel about it.

Laurie Halse Anderson is undoubtably an immensely talented author. She painted such a vivid picture of what it is like to live with an eating disorder that I felt like I was Lia, experiencing it alongside her. Some lines absolutely punched me in the gut. Not just in their beauty and poetry, but in their raw and unflinchingness.

“There’s no point in asking why, even though everyone will. I know why. The harder question is ‘why not?’ I can’t believe she ran out of answers before I did”

However, this book may have been a little too realistic for me. Wintergirls was scary. Not in a horror movie, jump scare way- but in the strange and unsettling feelings it evoked in me. If you think you are even slightly not in the right mindset to read this, I would urge you to wait until you feel in you are in better space. This book had my brain down strange spirals and I have never personally had experiences with eating disorders.

My heart was shattered into a million pieces thinking about the story. Lia, her body, her parents, her step-sister. At times I just wanted to scream at her to just eat. But I know it doesn't work that way.

Here is where my conflicted feelings come in. Should I rate a book lower because I didn't enjoy the experience, despite it being realistic and well written?

One of the main things stopping me from entirely connecting with the story was Lia herself. I felt like despite being in her head for the entirety of the novel, I never truly got to know her. Her ED consumed her entire being until there was no space for a crack of personality to shine through. I didn't understand why she was doing this, when clearly all it was causing her and those around her, was pain.

I didn't love the ending. well, I liked where it went but not how we got there. Without spoiling it, the ending simply felt rushed, unearned and abrupt.

A big critique I have heard about the book is its strange formatting. I actually didn't mind it (could be due to the fact that I listened to the audiobook).

I didn't enjoy this book, but that wasn't its intention. if you feel you are in the right mindset for this, and can handle the subject matter I would recommend it. I know I will definitely be left thinking about it for a while to come.

★★★.5 stars
Profile Image for Lisa Vegan.
2,802 reviews1,234 followers
February 8, 2009
This book was absolutely mesmerizing! I was completely engrossed and I really enjoyed it. This book gets five stars and not four from me, despite a couple of flaws, because Lia seemed so real and the writing style was wonderful and the language was lovely.

I’d highly recommend this book to those treating and caring for those suffering from anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and certain types of mental illnesses. I think it would be very educational for some, and useful for those they’re trying to help.

I’d be reluctant to suggest it to young people who suffer from anorexia, bulimia, or severe depression because, as with just about every single book about these subjects, it could be a harmful trigger. It’s not that the book glorifies these ailments, but the graphic descriptions of coping methods could set some off on a dangerous and self-destructive path. Then again, I’m sure this book will appeal to sufferers and it has the potential to actually help them, especially if the book is discussed.

As when reading all books about anorexia nervosa, or people starving for whatever reason, reading this made me want to eat! Too much!

I cared about Lia and also her step-sister Emma, and I very much enjoyed the numerous references to other young adult and children’s books & authors. The fact that Lia is a reader is impressive.

I read a paperback advanced uncorrected reader copy. There were lots of strike thrus and other copy that made me unsure what the final book will be. Pages 224-225 were completely blank with no text. The novel in this form was 278 pages, 282 pages with the acknowledgments.

One “error” drove me nuts. Lia (the main character) and her best friend Cassie and also Lia and a friend Elijah play the Hearts card game, apparently with a deck of cards and not on a computer, but you need a minimum of three players, not just two, in order to play Hearts. (I did message the person who provided the ARC to me about that, and also about one of the author’s choices of wording that didn’t ring true to me. Apparently, the final copy of the first edition of the book is printed, but she’ll message the editor about my concerns, and if they agree with me it’s possible changes will be made in future reprints.)

I had very recently read this author’s book Speak. (I had seen the movie years ago. The movie was good; the book is great.) Unlike Speak, which despite the serious subject matter was hilarious, this book was not filled with humor. There were a very few mildly amusing parts but it’s a much darker novel than Speak. It really gets into the mind of an eighteen-year-old girl (told first person by her) suffering from anorexia nervosa and depression. The story is compelling, at times actually terrifying, and I did cry, but reading it was well worth the painful feelings I experienced.
Profile Image for Tatiana.
1,406 reviews11.7k followers
June 20, 2009
Wintergirls. What can I say about this book? It wasn't an easy read. I have never been exposed to the world of anorexia and bulimia and therefore can't say if it was truthfully and accurately portrayed, but what I can say is that being in Lia's mind definitely was a powerful experience which I will not soon forget. Although I couldn't understand what moved Lia to do certain things, I had a good look at her inner world which was a terrifying and bleak place. Her obsession with calories, not eating and weight loss, the lies, the guilt, the unhappiness, consumed her entire life where she couldn't relax even for a moment. I felt extremely sorry for her.

My main concern with this book was the fact that I couldn't quite grasp why exactly Lia loathed herself so much. Yes, her parents divorced and were maybe too busy and neglectful. But was it enough to justify Lia's self-hate? I am not sure. And what exactly made Lia to finally decide to seek help? Maybe these things were explained in the book, but I guess way too subtly for my taste.

I also have to note the writing style that was quite impressive, even though not easy to get used to.

Final verdict? This is the book that everybody should read, even to just obtain some understanding of what's going on in the minds of people suffering from eating disorders.
Profile Image for Giselle.
990 reviews6,355 followers
February 27, 2012
Wintergirls is a story about girl who's struggling with anorexia. It's a pretty quick read, but it didn't move me as much as I thought it would.

The story is good. Scary and shocking with a strong message. I don't have a lot insight into the disease so this was a real eye opener for me; I wasn't aware how people with anorexia were able to actually self-discipline themselves to not eat. We're shown through Lia's point of view how she warps her world and relationships that which steers her into depression. It's not just about what she puts into her mouth, but how she perceives her compulsions and the empty void she lives in. It's really an astonishing story that overflows with emotions.

However, I wish the characters were a bit more solid. We never really went into their reasons for thinking so negatively. What happened in their lives to get them to this point? In this aspect it felt like the author went very stereotypical teen angst.

What really bugged me, though, while reading this book was the writing. It had a lot of analogies and metaphors that were just plain confusing at times. I sometimes didn't know what was real and what wasn't. It also took me a while to realize she was actually hallucinating and not just day dreaming or fantasizing. Additionally, the author uses a lot of different writing formats that were often annoying/distracting/disorienting


while not really adding anything to the story.

All in all it wasn't anything overly special, though I still enjoyed the story. It had a lot of depth and was really thought provoking, but otherwise it fell flat, just a lil bit.

For more of my reviews, visit my blog at Xpresso Reads
Profile Image for Rachel (TheShadesofOrange).
2,206 reviews3,216 followers
March 14, 2020
5.0 Stars
Five stars upon re-read. Anderson has such a talent for writing authentic stories about real teenage issues. The narration is emotional and raw, accurately depicting the inner monologue of disordered eating. I love the fragmented writing style, which felt very remiscent of Speak. I highly recommend this powerful, young adult novel.
Huge content warnings for eating disorders. This novel includes triggering thought patterns regarding weight, calories, and starvation tricks that could dangerous inspiration.
Profile Image for Elizabeth.
275 reviews733 followers
October 9, 2018
Overall I have a feeling this book would be frustrating and disturbing for those who know nothing of disordered eating; and for those with disordered eating, I think it would be very triggering. So really, I wouldn’t recommend Wintergirls to anyone.
Profile Image for Linda.
728 reviews
May 6, 2009
Normally, I would have just left my two star (really, more like one and a half) rating and gone on my way. But Laurie Halse Anderson is very close to the top of the list of my favorite authors who write for teens, and this is the second title in the row of hers that I've given two stars.

It kills me to think she might never write anything as good as Speak or Catalyst again.

If I'm going to devote several hours of my life to follow a character through several hundred pages, I need something to hang my hat on. The heroine either needs to be likeable, hateable, or at the very least, needs to make me laugh.

Lia did only one thing for me as a reader. You know the book Inkheart, where two characters have the ability to read themselves and others into the pages of a book? Well, Lia made me want to find someone with that ability, because I wanted to enter Wintergirls and strangle her with my bare hands. After she was dead, I'd do the kindest thing, and have her cremated, and I'd even take a mortar and pestle and grind the bits of bone left into powder, then scatter her ashes over a barren landscape where nothing could survive, and her remains wouldn't accidentally nourish anything in the ground, because that's as close as I could come to providing her heart's (seemingly only)desire-- to weigh absolutely nothing.

I don't think the reader is supposed to like Lia. I'm not sure if the reader is supposed to identify with her-- I know I didn't. (I identified with her dad, when he finally lost it, and started screaming at her. I identified with her mom, who stopped just shy of tying Lia to a chair and pouring soup down her throat.)

Is there a reason the reader is supposed to hope Lia survives? She had no interest in high school, boys, college. She hated her mom, hated her dad, hated her step-mom, hated her therapist, even hated her supposed best friend. (To her credit, she did tolerate her non-sister, but she also traumatized the girl.) We get no glimpse of the "girl that could be" without the illness. We're simply stuck inside her sick, sick head.

Profile Image for Thomas.
1,520 reviews8,993 followers
January 17, 2010
When Lia's best friend Cassie dies in a motel room, Lia is left all alone. Alone to finish the game and carry out the oath she shared with Cassie - to continue to lose weight. Lia is trapped in a deadly competition with her own body - don't eat, weigh less, and look thinner. Casting away her family that doesn't understand the limbo of tantalizing fats and calories, Lia marches solo into the storm that will take her entire living existence away from her - anorexia.

Even though this book was almost too difficult to read, I loved it. Every single word. Anderson writes with such great quality, and I love her lyrical and concise prose. She really infuses emotion into her writing and Wintergirls is my favorite book of hers since Speak.

At times when I read this book I felt cold, almost numb. Lia's descent into anorexia was horrible, and I sincerely hope teenage girls who read this book will walk away with something learned. Heck, when I finished Wintergirls I walked straight into the pantry and ate half of an entire party size bag of potato chips. My coach is probably going to be angry at me. It'll be worth it, though. Wintergirls was amazing.
Profile Image for Constantine.
861 reviews167 followers
February 21, 2022

Rating: 4.0/5.0

Contemporary + Young Adult

Lia and Cassie are best friends who struggle with anorexia. One day Cassie is found dead in a motel room. She tried to contact Lia many times to say sorry after their breakup, but Lia never answered her that day for the horrible things she said to her. When Lia finds that her friend is no more she will struggle a lot to choose between life and death.

Book Structure:
The book is 278 pages. There are 65 chapters and most are short and can be read very fast. The story is told from Lia's perspective. The reader gets to understand her struggle with food, life, and death!

“Do I want to die from the inside out or the outside in?”

My Thoughts:
The subject of this book is crucial and very relevant in our times. Eating disorders are everywhere around the world. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, there are 30 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder in the U.S. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness, and every 62 minutes at least one person dies directly from an eating disorder! These statistics are terrifying which makes this subject a very important one and everybody should have some kind of awareness about it.

The writing style is very easy to follow. There are several quotes that I found to be beautiful. But I wish the author went a little deeper into the main theme. I know this is a young adult book but still, a little bit darker atmosphere would have made the story more interesting.

“I failed eating, failed drinking, failed not cutting myself into shreds. Failed friendship. Failed sisterhood and daughterhood. Failed mirrors and scales and phone calls. Good thing I'm stable. ”

The main character was struggling a lot with the food, calories, and the desire whether to stay alive or not. Young girls' obsession with getting thin, thinner, or thinnest is a real thing. Among the characters I find Elijah to be the one with lots of sense of humor even when everybody else was very serious. The stepmom's character was surprisingly good towards the main character for a change too!

There are trigger warnings in this book that might make some readers uncomfortable. If eating disorders or suicide make you uncomfortable in any way then you should avoid this book or at least be cautious reading it. I would normally rate Wintergirls as a 3.5 star but because of the important theme, I am going with a 4.0 out of 5.0.

“I want to go to sleep and not wake up, but I don't want to die. I want to eat like a normal person eats, but I need to see my bones or I will hate myself even more and I might cut my heart out or take every pill that was ever made.”
Profile Image for Kristi.
1,192 reviews2,901 followers
March 1, 2009
I love Laurie Halse Anderson. Speak is one of my all time favorite novels, so to say I was excited to read Wintergirls was an understatement. I was excited until I realized what Wintergirls was really about: anorexia. Was that something that I wanted to read about. It sounded truly depressing and slightly disturbing. But as hard as it was to read this novel, I felt like it was even harder to put down. Anderson continues to impress my with her beautifully written novels.

I’ve seen Anderson’s writing described as lyrical and I have to say that I fully agree. And Wintergirls in no exception. Anderson’s writing is almost hypnotizing, she has a way of explaining a situation thoroughly using as few words as possible. Genius.

And it’s so much more than writing, it’s the characterization. Lia’s character is so rawly displayed it’s heartbreaking. I never fully understand the metal effects that an eating disorder can have, I marveled at a part of the text where Lia watches her dad eat.... and how she wishes she could eat like that. Aimlessly, automatic, effortless. For some reason that part really stuck out for me, and it was so simple.

I’m sure this novel will make an impact and be discussed, maybe even more so than Speak. I can’t wait to see what LAH has in store next.

Profile Image for Carrie.
3,230 reviews1,566 followers
September 7, 2016
Lia and Cassie were always the best of friends. They called themselves the Wintergirls, the two were competitors in a deadly contest to see who can be the thinnest. But Lia had not spoken to Cassie in months after her trip into the hospital when her weight hit the danger zone.

Now, Lia finds that Cassie has died alone in a motel and all Lia wants is answers to what happened. Lia had ignored Cassie's numerous phone calls and is now carrying guilt over the loss of her friend which starts a downward spiral of calorie counting and refusal to eat.

To be honest I wasn't a huge fan of Wintergirls when I first started reading this one. I found the pace a bit slow while Lia was often a bit frantic and wasn't even sure I wanted to continue to read and finish the whole book. When done though I was glad I did as this one is a look into a territory that I was not at all familiar with and I think it does a good job showing what a girl like Lia is going through.

Lia is an extremely flawed character. Not only is she anorexic but she is also into cutting herself and had never felt comfortable in her own skin. These may be problems that most cannot relate to but this fictional work seemed to give a realistic look into these problems that a lot of young girls do suffer from. If anything give this one a try just to get a look into a world that isn't easy to understand.

Lia's story grew on me as it went on and I'd recommend checking this one out to anyone that is the least bit curious about this disease and what someone in Lia's position could possibly be thinking.

For more reviews please visit https://carriesbookreviews.wordpress....

Profile Image for Tamora Pierce.
Author 106 books83.5k followers
April 22, 2009
Another gut-wrencher story from Laurie Halse Anderson, of two friends determined to starve themselves to the ideal weight, which looks more and more like death. It's powerful; it's believable, and it will give you the chills. You'll never forget it--I know I won't!
Profile Image for Molly.
73 reviews99 followers
February 2, 2009
I am oh-so-ready for more people I know to have read this book so I can talk with them about it!!

Though it will inevitably be compared to SPEAK, I felt like this marked a real advance in Laurie Halse Anderson's ability as a writer in comparison. That said, the main character is dissociated, so it's hard to feel particuarly close to her as a reader. But I think that's the point.

I don't think it's an exaggeration at all to say that some readers will find salvation in this book, and for that alone, it deserves a dozen stars.
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