I’ve been trying to force myself to post more regularly, especially as a means of exercising my writing. So I thought about posting about things that I like to read. So in the posts will [hopefully] follow this one, I’ll write some things about stuff that I have read, that I am reading and that I will/intend to read. I have to say I used to read a lot more and that I have been unforgivably lazy about that, but I am willing to mend myself. There are so many things I want to read/watch that may not be enough lifetime for them 😛 but hey, girl gotta dream, huh?
I start this series of posts without any particular order. Also, I should add I don’t really follow any trends, so I may eventually be bewildered by a book that is old news for some people, but well… Bear with me.
Wintergirls, by Laurie Halse Anderson
I started reading this because of the synopsis, really. I eventually visit the young-adult fiction world because I like to know what is going on there. And very often I am surprised by very good fiction. And that was the case here.
I had never heard of the author before [sorry?] but I learned that she is famous for a novel called Speak [already added to my reading list]. I was curious about the development of the plot in Wintergirls. An anorexic girl loses her best friend and spirals into dark, unhealthy habits again after having already been committed to a rehabilitation clinic twice. Nothing really new, you may think. I thought so too. So when I started reading the novel, I wasn’t expecting anything really great, honestly. However, I was pleasantly surprised by a poetic narrative, filled with beautiful images. Ok, beautiful in the poetic sense; I don’t really think girls starving themselves to death is beautiful. But there is some kind of bittersweet poetry in it that Anderson captures very well.
The narrator of the novel is Lia, the girl who just lost her former best friend. The text opens:
“So she tells me, the words dribbling out with the cranberry muffin crumbs, commas dunked in her coffee.
She tells me in four sentences. No, five.
I can’t let me hear this, but it’s too late. The facts sneak in and stab me. When she gets to the worst part
… body found in a motel room, alone . . .
… my walls go up and my doors lock. I nod like I’m listening, like we’re communicating, and she never knows the difference.
It’s not nice when girls die.” (ANDERSON, 2009, 9)
From the moment Lia is told her ex friend Cassie is dead, we journey with her through her struggles to remain the skinniest version of herself while she recollects how she came to this, what was her life with Cassie when she was ‘a real girl,’ her experiences in the clinics, her therapy sessions, her broken family life, her lack of connections to other people, her tactics for fooling herself and other people into thinking she eats. There is a sense of emptiness throughout the text, a void that can’t be filled. And cold. So much cold. And spider webs, ghosts, gingerbreads, candies, sleeping pills, bones, snow, food. Always food, haunting.
It made me sad because I know this is not really fiction. That there are people out there thinking the way Lia does: that she is not thin enough, that if she can’t count her ribs through her skin she is too big, that it is ok to starve yourself because then you get stronger, cleaner. It breaks my heart because (1) I may have some weird issues regarding self image myself and (2) I can’t understand how you can deprive yourself of the deliciousness of eating. I do believe Anderson made a beautiful job with Wintergirls even though Lia, as a character, lacks some depth. I credit that to the overall effect of the novel that borders dreamland, really. I don’t think it is a flaw. I believe it adds to the fact that Lia cannot place herself in the real world, that she is slipping through the cracks of the surface to a place where she can feel numb. We never get a full description of Lia, for example, especially because she never looks herself in the mirror and she often repeats that she is not sure what she is supposed to look like anymore.
Overall, I think Wintergirls is a good novel. Maybe not the best one you’ll find about the subject if you are looking for full debate about it, but I like how not-so-truthful-to-reality this is in the sense that at times you get lost in hallucinations and dreams and panic attacks with Lia. You will not find in Wintergirls a discussion about social expectations about female bodies, nor a psychological investigation on the whys and hows of anorexia. Honestly, I don’t think anyone can know what goes inside the mind of an anorexic person except for himself/herself but I like how poetically imaginative the book is. For me, it was quite heavy at times even if I don’t really understand why someone may think like that, hurt themselves like that, experience the world like that. But again, we build our world according to our experiences. And yes, the world can be really mean to people sometimes, regardless their body shape.
‘We held hands when we walked down the gingerbread path into the forest, blood dripping from our fingers. We danced with witches and kissed monsters. 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.’ (ANDERSON, 2009, 90)
Anderson, Laurie Halse. Wintergirls. New York: Viking, 2009. E-book.