The New York Times bestselling story of a friendship frozen between life and death
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 racked with guilt 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.
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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.
“We didn’t want you hearing it at school or on the news.” Jennifer crams the last hunk of muffin into her mouth. “Are you sure you’re okay?”
I open the dishwasher and lean into the cloud of steam that floats out of it. I wish I could crawl in and curl up between a bowl and a plate. (My stepmother) Jennifer could lock the door, twist the dial to SCALD, and press ON.
The steam freezes when it touches my face. “I’m fine,” I lie.
She reaches for the box of oatmeal raisin cookies on the table. “This must feel awful.” She rips off the cardboard ribbon. “Worse than awful. Can you get me a clean container?”
I take a clear plastic box and lid out of the cupboard and hand it across the island to her. “Where’s Dad?”
“He had a tenure meeting.”
“Who told you about Cassie?”
She crumbles the edges of the cookies before she puts them in the box, to make it look like she baked instead of bought. “Your mother called late last night with the news. She wants you to see Dr. Parker right away instead of waiting for your next appointment.”
“What do you think?” I ask.
“It’s a good idea,” she says. “I’ll see if she can fit you in this afternoon.”
“Don’t bother.” I pull out the top rack of the dishwasher. The glasses vibrate with little screams when I touch them. If I pick them up, they’ll shatter. “There’s no point.”
She pauses in mid-crumble. “Cassie was your best friend.”
“Not anymore. I’ll see Dr. Parker next week like I’m supposed to.”
“I guess it’s your decision. Will you promise me you’ll call your mom and talk to her about it?”
Jennifer looks at the clock on the microwave and shouts, “Emma—four minutes!”
(My stepsister) Emma doesn’t answer. She’s in the family room, hypnotized by the television and a bowl of blue cereal.
Jennifer nibbles a cookie. “I hate to speak ill of the dead, but I’m glad you didn’t hang out with her anymore.”
I push the top rack back in and pull out the bottom. “Why?”
“Cassie was a mess. She could have taken you down with her.”
I reach for the steak knife hiding in the nest of spoons. The black handle is warm. As I pull it free, the blade slices the air, dividing the kitchen into slivers. There is Jennifer, packing store-bought cookies in a plastic tub for her daughter’s class. There is Dad’s empty chair, pretending he has no choice about these early meetings. There is the shadow of my mother, who prefers the phone because face-to-face takes too much time and usually ends in screaming.
Here stands a girl clutching a knife. There is grease on the stove, blood in the air, and angry words piled in the corners. We are trained not to see it, not to see any of it.
. . . body found in a motel room, alone . . .
Someone just ripped off my eyelids.
“Thank God you’re stronger than she was.” Jennifer drains her coffee mug and wipes the crumbs from the corners of her mouth.
The knife slides into the butcher block with a whisper. “Yeah.” I reach for a plate, scrubbed free of blood and gristle. It weighs ten pounds.
She snaps the lid on the box of cookies. “I have a late settlement appointment. Can you take Emma to soccer? Practice starts at five.”
“Richland Park, out past the mall. Here.” She hands the heavy mug to me, her lipstick a bloody crescent on the rim. I set it on the counter and unload the plates one at a time, arms shaking.
Emma comes into the kitchen and sets her cereal bowl, half-filled with sky-colored milk, next to the sink.
“Did you remember the cookies?” she asks her mother.
Jennifer shakes the plastic container. “We’re late, honey. Get your stuff.”
Emma trudges toward her backpack, her sneaker laces flopping. She should still be sleeping, but my father’s wife drives her to school early four mornings a week for violin lessons and conversational French. Third grade is not too young for enrichment, you know.
Jennifer stands up. The fabric of her skirt is pulled so tight over her thighs, the pockets gape open. She tries to smooth out the wrinkles. “Don’t let Emma con you into buying chips before practice. If she’s hungry, she can have a fruit cup.”
“Should I stick around and drive her home?”
She shakes her head. “The Grants will do it.” She takes her coat off the back of the chair, puts her arms in the sleeves, and starts to button up. “Why don’t you have one of the muffins? I bought oranges yesterday, or you could have toast or frozen waffles.”
(Because I can’t let myself want them) because I don’t need a muffin (410), I don’t want an orange (75) or toast (87), and waffles (180) make me gag.
I point to the empty bowl on the counter, next to the huddle of pill bottles and the Bluberridazzlepops box. “I’m having cereal.”
Her eyes dart to the cabinet where she had taped up my meal plan. It came with the discharge papers when I moved in six months ago. I took it down three months later, on my eighteenth birthday.
“That’s too small to be a full serving,” she says carefully.
(I could eat the entire box) I probably won’t even fill the bowl. “My stomach’s upset.”
She opens her mouth again. Hesitates. A sour puff of coffee-stained morning breath blows across the still kitchen and splashes into me. Don’t say it—don’tsayit.
She said it.
“That’s the issue. Especially now. We don’t want . . .”
If I weren’t so tired, I’d shove trust and issue down the garbage disposal and let it run all day.
I pull a bigger bowl out of the dishwasher and put it on the counter. “I. Am. Fine. Okay?”
She blinks twice and finishes buttoning her coat. “Okay. I understand. Tie your sneakers, Emma, and get in the car.”
“Hang on.” I bend down and tie Emma’s laces. Doubleknotted. I look up. “I can’t keep doing this, you know. You’re way too old.”
She grins and kisses my forehead. “Yes you can, silly.”
As I stand up, Jennifer takes two awkward steps toward me. I wait. She is a pale, round moth, dusted with eggshell foundation, armed for the day with her banker’s briefcase, purse, and remote starter for the leased SUV. She flutters, nervous.
This is where we should hug or kiss or pretend to.
She ties the belt around her middle. “Look . . . just keep moving today. Okay? Try not to think about things too much.”
“Say good-bye to your sister, Emma,” Jennifer prompts.
“Bye, Lia.” Emma waves and gives me a small berridazzle smile. “The cereal is really good. You can finish the box if you want.”
I pour too much cereal (150) in the bowl, splash on the two-percent milk (125). Breakfast is themostimportantmealoftheday. Breakfast will make me a cham-pee-on.
. . . When I was a real girl, with two parents and one house and no blades flashing, breakfast was granola topped with fresh strawberries, always eaten while reading a book propped up on the fruit bowl. At Cassie’s house we’d eat waffles with thin syrup that came from maple trees, not the fake corn syrup stuff, and we’d read the funny pages. . . .
No. I can’t go there. I won’t think. I won’t look.
I won’t pollute my insides with Bluberridazzlepops or muffins or scritchscratchy shards of toast, either. Yesterday’s dirt and mistakes have moved through me. I am shiny and pink inside, clean. Empty is good. Empty is strong.
But I have to drive.
. . . I drove last year, windows down, music cranked, first Saturday in October, flying to the SATs. I drove so Cassie could put the top coat on her nails. We were secret sisters with a plan for world domination, potential bubbling around us like champagne. Cassie laughed. I laughed. We were perfection.
Did I eat breakfast? Of course not. Did I eat dinner the night before, or lunch, or anything?
The car in front of us braked as the traffic light turned yellow, then red. My flip-flop hovered above the pedal. My edges blurred. Black squiggle tingles curled up my spine and wrapped around my eyes like a silk scarf. The car in front of us disappeared. The steering wheel, the dashboard, vanished. There was no Cassie, no traffic light. How was I supposed to stop this thing?
Cassie screamed in slow motion.
When I woke up, the emt-person and a cop were frowning. The driver whose car I smashed into was
screaming into his cell phone.
My blood pressure was that of a cold snake. My heart was tired. My lungs wanted a nap. They stuck me with a needle, inflated me like a state-fair balloon, and shipped me off to a hospital with steel-eyed nurses who wrote down every bad number. In pen. Busted me.
Mom and Dad rushed in, side by side for a change, happy that I was not dead. A nurse handed my chart to my mother. She read through it and explained the disaster to my father and then they fought, a mudslide of an argument that spewed across the antiseptic sheets and out into the hall. I was stressed/overscheduled/manic/no—depressed/no—in need of attention/no—in need of discipline/in need of rest/in need/your fault/your fault/fault/fault. They branded their war on this tiny skin-bag of a girl.
Phone calls were made. My parents force-marched me into (hell on the hill) New Seasons. . . .
Cassie escaped, as usual. Not a scratch. Insurance more than covered the damage, so she wound up with a fixed car and new speakers. Our mothers had a little talk, but really all girls go through these things and what are you going to do? Cassie rescheduled for the next test and got her nails done at a salon, Enchanted Blue, while they locked me up and dripped sugar water into my empty veins. . . .
Lesson learned. Driving requires fuel.
Not Emma’s Bluberridazzlepop cereal. I shiver and pour most of the soggy mess down the disposal, then set the bowl on the floor. Emma’s cats, Kora and Pluto, pad across the kitchen and stick their heads in the bowl. I draw a cartoon face with a big tongue on a sticky note, write YUMMY, EMMA! THANKS! and slap it on the cereal box.
I eat ten raisins (16) and five almonds (35) and a greenbellied pear (121) (= 172). The bites crawl down my throat. I eat my vitamins and the crazy seeds that keep my brain from exploding: one long purple, one fat white, two poppyred. I wash everybody down with hot water.
They better work quick. The voice of a dead girl is waiting for me on my phone.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Chilling. Even many days after reading WINTERGIRLS, I still shiver when I think about this book.
Lia has struggled with an eating disorder before. Her parents think that she is getting better, but she is just fooling everyone. When Cassie, who used to be her best friend, dies, Lia spirals out of control again.
She eats less and less and begins seeing Cassie's ghost everywhere.
WINTERGIRLS explores the world of eating disorders with vivid, horrifying detail.
Even though this book was really creepy, it was also spectacular. I had never understood how or why some people began to have eating disorders, and this book gave a spectacular insight into their state of mind.
Not only was this book an excellent portrayal of a teenager with anorexia but it also was a an extensive view into the mind of a cutter and someone who deals with hallucinations. This book may be hard to read for some people. If you are thinking about reading it, make sure that you are...i guess mentally prepared for it. It can be extremely heart wrenching. But if you do decide to read it...you won't be disappointed. I loved reading every minute of it. Lia's character is sarcastic and can be quite funny at times. I would recommend this book to anyone.
Laurie Halse Anderson is not one to shy away from difficult topics. Her debut novel Speak deals with the issue of teen rape was lets just say it was incredible. In her latest, Wintergirls, Anderson deftly addresses the devastating effects of eating disorders. Wintergirls is the story of Lia who daily fights a battle between herself and food. She's already been hospitalized twice for her eating disorder where she played the 'recovery game' until doctors and parents were satisfied and gave her enough breathing room to go back to her old habits. It's the one thing Lia constantly concentrates on in the midst of divorced parents who are too busy to notice her and school that doesn't really matter. How many calories (or lack there of) each day. How much she exercises. But then Lia begins to face the realities of her choices when she finds out that her (ex)best friend, Cassie, who also had an eating disorder, has died. As she stumbles deeper into grief, Lia tries to determine not the reason why Cassie killed herself, but why not? What amazes me is how accurately Anderson is able to portray a teenager who feels constantly at odds with her family, herself and especially food. She is so isolated, so alone with the pain and destructive feelings in her head it seems to the reader she'll never be able to pull herself out. Lia's isolation is underscored by her nightly visits to supersecret and honestly so competely depressing online chat groups for anorexic/bulimic girls who discuss their struggle to lose that last 10, 15, even 25 pounds. Nameless girls who like Lia try to control the chaos of their lives by controlling their body. Wintergirls was not an easy read nor was it easy to put down. I alternated between pity, depression and down right horror at the things Lia put herself and consequently, her family through. Though this is a teen novel, I would hesitate to give it to just any teen girl - it's something that needs to be digested with a little bit of maturity and sensitivity. But was it a heartbreaking beautiful novel that will stick with me a long time? Absolutely. seemichelleread.blogspot.com
I couldn't set this book down. I read it in a few short hours and it spoke to me. I suffered from anorexia and it portrayed an everyday struggle. It was a beautiful book and i will surely be sharing it with my friends. Warning: If you have ever suffered from an ED the begining may cause triggering thoughts.
Raw, painful, realistic, sad, beautiful, heart wrenching . . . all these words can be used to describe Wintergirls. I knew going into this one that it deals with eating disorders. But Wintergirls deals with so much more. It touches on loss, depression, family problems, and cutting. It was a very heavy read. Unbelievably sad. But it was one of the most beautifully written stories I have read so far. My hand stayed over my heart just about the whole time I was reading Wintergirls. Cassie and Lia care about nothing but being the thinnest. Their obsession costs Cassie her life. Cassie's death leaves Lia in a terrible, self-destructive state. The emotions get to you so much that you felt them like your own. You are put inside the head of an extreme anorexic. Someone who can barley eat, but has food on the brain constantly. Every time you eat is a punishment. Every little speck of food must be counted. It was exhausting. I couldn't imagine ever having to live like that. But at the same time, you can completely understand where Lia is coming from. We have all gone through times that we mentally kick ourselves for eating too much. Multiply that by 100, and you are getting closer to the misery Lia is in. Now living with the guilt of a lost friend only makes it worse. Lia's struggle wasn't like anything else I have ever read before. The author brings to life her voice in a way that will wrap around your mind and hold you captive until the very last page. The writing is unbelievably lyrical and poetic. It did a wonderful job at magnifying the emotions. Many of the jarring and raw descriptions stayed in my head long after I put the book down. I also liked how Anderson crosses out many words in the book to show Lia's struggle. Wintergirls is a book that is very hard to digest, but so worth it if you do. It's a book that is read through the cracks of your fingers as you are covering your eyes. It will make you take a good look at your own relationship with food. Because no one would ever want to live life the way Lia does. I am very glad I read Wintergirls. A little piece of Lia and her story will forever be with me now.
The first book that i read by Laurie Halse Anderson was Speak, during my sophomore year of High School. I found the book to be well written and very good. When i found out about Wintergirls, i knew i had to read it! After spending the past 3 days reading it... i am just... really shocked and sort of at lost for words on how to describe just how powerful this book is! Two young girls, best friends forever, under cold moonlight, cut and bind blood- making an oath to be the skinniest girl at their school. What seems to be an ordinary bet between friends reveals dangerous consequences as Lia's best friend Cassie is found dead in a motel room. Although the two drifted apart, Lia feels haunted by her best friend's spirit. 95 pounds is not enough for Lia- she still feels hideous and fat, she can feel the excess fat hanging on the sides of her body, she can taste and smell the calories within the food she is forced to eat. Although she was treated in the past, it was not enough to make her see the damage that she has done to herself. With Cassie gone, Lia has won the bet- but just how far can she pass that bet? What comes after a size zero? What happens when no one can understand Lia's torment? Laurie Halse Anderson writing is very lyrical and raw in this book- especially of Lia's Character. Anorexia is a very dark and delicate subject to write or talk about- although we all know the physical damage that it does to a person, we don't really get to see or have a clear image of the mental and psychological effects it has. In this book, when we read from Lia's POV we can perfectly see her inner struggles. With every crossed out line of words in the pages, we can see how she fights herself from not eating, how she pushes herself so hard to obtain her weight goal. It is both haunting and sad reading about Lia. No girl should have to endure such a torment for body image, no one should hurt themselves the way Lia does. This was a very well written book, for all of those who have read Speak, please take a look at Wintergirls!
a. This novel opened my eyes to the struggles of those with anorexia nervosa. The actions of the girl whose life was hijacked by this disease bothered me; I never truly understood the feelings of an individual with this disorder. I am a healthy, slender girl who has the occasional insecurity concerning my appearance, similar to most teenage girls. However Mia, the girl commanded by anorexia, hates herself with such a passion that she eats under 500 calories a day while forcing herself to follow a strict exercise routine. She tries to seek self-acceptance and self-worth by attempting to meet her continuously lower weight goal; she has warped her mind to believe that her ultimate goal is to weigh zero pounds, nothing. Part of the beauty of this novel, and of reading in general, is the ability I had to see glimpses of myself in Mia when she stares at herself in the mirror and recognizes what she would change. I became entrapped in her world and experienced her struggles; at the end I gained not only understanding of the girls who face the fears anorexia brings, but also a greater understanding of myself. I am Mia. Reading this novel made me more capable of empathizing with those controlled by anorexia, because I too have the occasional doubt.
Wintergirls has at least one thing going for it. It was beautifully written. Other than that, I wasn't too impressed. I don't feel like I was able to really connect with the characters. The storyline wasn't very engaging. [SPOILER-Y] The guy from the motel made no sense to me. I'm not sure why he was even a part of the story. If Anderson wanted a way to have Cassie tell Lia she won, she could have picked a different way to do it, one that made more sense than throwing an uninteresting character into the mix. [END] NOTE: While I have never dealt with any type of eating disorder, I imagine that Wintergirls could have triggering effects for someone who deals with eating disorder issues. Please take caution when reading. Thank you. You can read this and other reviews on my blog, KDH Reviews.
This book was awesome! So well written (round of applause,anyone?) and very captivating. Fast moving and easily read. But this is a trigger book (as in might lead you to look differently at yourself) and very depressing. I enjoyed this book and read it fast (slow reader and short attention span.)
This book could be described in three simple words. Astounding,raw, and true. I compulsively read this book, not putting it down for a second, and finished it in a few hours. Throughout the story, there was many moments where the tears just poured out of my eyes. On many occasions when it happened, it was usually when Lia( main character) would purposelly hurt herself, or when she would tell hersef that she was fat or worthless. Lia and Cassie(her bestfriend) make a little competition with eachother to see who could be the thinnest. Slowly, both of them start wasting away, and Cassie dies. Lia is left thinking she is at fault. Many times Cassie would want to back down and Lia would convince her to stay, which made Lia's assumption realistic. Along with the fact that; in the hours leading up to her death, Cassie called Lia many times, asking for help. And Lia didnt get them until it was to late. So Lia goes through life in the same pattern, cutting and starving. Self harm and starving. She travels along the road to self destruction.But soon, after a near death experience, Lia finally obliges, and lets herself take a detour, to the road of recovery. This is a great read, one of my favorites. It helps girls realize that life isnt about being thin, but about being happy and confident. Or its just an interesting story, that grabs onto your heart and doesnt let go, even after you turn the last page ~ Sydney Leigh
I just love Laurie Anderson's novels, when I got this book from my high school I wasn't sure it won't be good like her other novel Speak but I felled in love with the book, every page and chapter just get's you suspicion high. Wanting to know what is going to happen next. I highly recommend this book if you love her other novels like speak I am re-reading this book this is going to be my 3rd time I am reading it, it's that good.
This book cannot be fully descibed in words... all i can say is that this book is truly breathtakingly sad and really puts you into the mind of an anorexic teen. I recommened this book to anyone but i am warning you this book is really sad and you should really mentally prepare yourself for what you are about to read because its not only sad but kind of scary as well.
I read this book knowing that it would be a hard topic to read about. The author's writing style is unique, crisp, & blunt as if the book itself was written out of the mind of a teenager. A realistic depiction of what a battle with anorexia is like, Wintergirls leaves you with both relief and a cold emptiness inside. I wouldn't suggest this book to someone who can't take the tough topic of anorexia, because the emotion and struggle written across every page is real enough to touch. A great work done by the author, but a word of caution should be given to anyone who wants just a 'good book to relax and read'. Wintergirls opens your eyes to what life from inside a block of ice is like, and how, even though everyone around you tells you that you need to stop, when your mind is set on getting you thinner and thinner, you can't stop even if you want to.
This Story is amazing! I was really busy when i started reading it so it took me forever to get through, but i finally had a free day. I read the rest of the book in that day!! It is an amazing book. It's real life, heart-wrenching. You will fall in love with the characters in this book. You will feel what they felt in the situations they as they go through them. You will probably be able to relate to this book or know someone who does. Lia & Cassie were best friends until a couple years before Cassie died. Cassie hasn't found the light yet, and it still with Lia. Cassie called Lia in the motel before she took her life, but Lia didn't answer. She remembers this everyday and Cassie doesn't let her forget it. This is a truly amzaing book. A must read!!! Filled with real life situations teens go through everyday. Eating disorders, Cutting, Sucide (SP?) and everything in between!
This book should be a movie because i feel that it really captures the essence of what society thinks of girls these days that they have to be skinny and thin in order to be pretty and thats not true do what u want live life to the fullest because if u spend ur whole life trying to make ur self skinny overdosing on pills being on diets constantly and eating nothing but a carrot for the whole freakin day dont do that ull regret it my sister died last year because if this she was only 21 it makes me sad cuz im 17 and i really looked up to her therefore i think it should become a movie i feel like it will really help teen girls to understand the essence of theyre life and what society thinks of them hopefully it will make them change theyre mind cuz were all BEAUTIFUL in our own way girls!
The only thing i can say to this is wow
Wow. What a beautiful book. Having gone through a similar difficulty, I find Lia to be a very relatable and realistic character. Yes, this book is graphic and can be disturbing to some, as it takes you right inside the head of a young girl who is self destructive and mentally unstable. But it is also very real, and may help to raise awareness of problems like eating disorders and cutting. A stunning book, beautifully written, with a supernatural twist- it is perfect, and I will read it over and over again.
A heart wretching novel full of sadness and struggle to get through lifes hardest times and the struggle of eating dissorders. Beautifully writen and a must reas for everyone.
this book was awesome! i loved it. its kinda scary to think that this could happen to amyone.....
This is now my offical favorite book! Its amazing! You will love it! I read this book 4 times already!
The beginning was a little slow, and it took a while for things to reach the climax. However, the ending really tied eveything together although it was a bit too short for my taste. Well, this novel is a kind of book to read over an extensive time since it's not particularly engaging until the end. But definitely worth the buy!
i love all of it. the book was slow at some times and i really wanted to see what elijah and lia where like if he didnt leave her in the motel room it was thrilling and wonderful oh and i love cassie how shes a ghost and all i highly highly recommend it.
i really loved this book. i got it from my school library and plan on buying a copy for myself. it was a very deep and moving had shocking twists and turns
This book was amazing! I couldn't put it down at all and it left me wanting a second book, a third book and a fourth! I have the perfect song that goes with this book, I listened to it while I read it most of the time. July Flame by Laura Veirs. Great book! It's very unforgettable.