Cassie’s body was found in a motel room.
She called Lia 33 times before she died.
Lia never picked up.
Now the voice in Lia’s head tells her to stay strong. Keep control. Lose more. Weigh less.
Maybe she can make herself disappear altogether.
Lia is a recovering anorexic who lives with her father, step mother and step sister. But Lia has no interest in recovering. She worked too hard to be this thin and too hard in fooling her family into believing that she’s getting better. Her dream is to weigh 95 pounds and she’s determined to achieve it.
One night her former best friend Cassie phones her 33 times. Cassie and Lia haven’t spoken in over a year – not since Cassie blamed her for her own bulimia. Angry and resentful, Lia refuses to call Cassie back and the next day, discovers that Cassie died alone in a motel room. As Lia tries to come to terms with what happened to Cassie, she finds herself becoming more and more a wintergirl – someone who is only half in this world and half in the world of the dead. Then Cassie starts to appear to her in visions, and she’s determined to bring Lia to her side ...
Anderson’s novel is a searingly powerful and unflinching look at anorexia. It’s not an easy read – not least because Lia also self-harms and the scenes that show her cutting herself are particularly difficult to read. Anderson brings out Lia’s need for control, the dual nature of her disease – how she wants to eat and yet is scared and determined not to. There’s no judgment here – Anderson is too wise to point to anorexia as having one root cause. However she does show the contributing factors – Lia’s low self-esteem, the support offered by pro-anorexia internet communities, the breakdown of her parents’ marriage and the criticism she felt she got from her very successful mother. At the heart of it is confusion – Lia struggles to work out who she is and can’t acknowledge the truths screaming within her.
The book’s formatting is used to good effect – the text and its presentation highlighting the turmoil Lia is going through and Lia’s own voice is faultless. There is also a lengthy author’s note at the back which discusses how Anderson came to the subject together with helplines for people touched by the issues.
This is without doubt one of the best YA novels I’ve read in a long time. It’s true, moving and candid and it makes you think about a topic much covered in the media in an entirely new way. A must read for adults and teens alike.
Laurie Halse Anderson’s YA novel about anorexia is a modern classic. It’s a powerful and unflinching read that at times is very hard to read and it looks at the disease from every angle, never forcing conclusions. Special mention should be made of the clever use that Anderson makes of the text itself and its formatting to get the story across as it never feels gimmicky and really helps get inside the main character’s head. In short it’s one of the best YA novels I’ve read in a long time and I have no hesitation in recommending it to teens and grown ups alike.
Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the free copy of this book.
Cross-posted to bookish, books, bookworming and yalitlovers.