After her former best friend Cassie is found dead and alone in a motel room, Lia begins a downward spiral; struggling with divorced parents that don’t understand or are too busy to, a clueless stepmother and ghosts that haunt her every movement. Struggling to keep afloat amidst so much sadness, Lia’s anorexic behavior returns, with even more determination as her world crumbles around her.
Laurie Halse Anderson is a sort of landmark in the YA literature, with other works such as Speak and Chains cluttering summer reading lists for local high schools, and garnering much lauded attention from teens and adults alike. Wintergirls is my first venture into the worlds created by Anderson. This is also the second book that I listened to on audio-cd (the first was Jurassic Park when I was 13). Read by Jeanne Smith, this audio-cd was heartbreaking, disturbing and uplifting. There were many moments where I wanted to break down and cry for Lia, for her struggles. To hug her and tell her that everything would be OK. A lost child surrounded by family. Thinking back to my high school years, its easy to feel surrounded and neglected at the same time. Her family cares for her, but they don’t know how to deal with her. Neither does Lia know how to really communicate with her family about her troubles. Her younger sister Emma seems to be the silver lining in anything Leah does and wants to do.
I think this book is as relevant for teens as it for adults. Parents wondering why their children starve themselves. For teens, it is a way to realize that they don’t have to be stuck in this uncomfortable cycle of binge and purge, starve and cut.
Anderson’s writing is lyrical, eloquent, but also captures clearly how to teen’s talk and think. Jeanne Smith’s reading was well paced, and with her little girl voice, the audio-cd felt like a high school girl was talking to you. It felt more real, more emotional than I think a straight reading from the paperback would have been. The audio-cd also includes an author chat where Anderson discusses her vision and inspiration for Wintergirls.Wintergirls Laurie Halse Anderson Brilliance Audio, 2009 Viking Press , 2009 (for the book) 7 hours on 6 cds