*** This review contains SPOILERS! ***
I shouldn’t. I can’t. I don’t deserve it. I’m a fat load and I disgust myself. I take up too much space already. I am an ugly, nasty hypocrite. I am trouble. I am a waste.
I want to go to sleep, 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 out my heart or take every pill that was ever made (p 202-03).
Wintergirls rambles on like this most of the time. Readers are stuck in the first-person narrative mush that is Lia’s consciousness. The style itself is choppy; trying too hard (where the PR people got “lyrical and evocative prose” is a mystery to me). It dragged.
Lia is a senior and the skinniest girl in her high school. If you ask her, she would say she is thin-framed. She is actually anorexic. If you asked her about it, she would ask you why your eyes don’t work. She’d say she is clothed in fat.
The book begins with Lia’s childhood best friend, Cassie, found dead in a motel room. Lia’s hallucinations have her thinking Cassie is haunting her. We begin to understand why Lia is anorexic but by the time it is explained, I no longer care, because whatever the reason was… it’s no longer relevant.
That was the summer I finally grew, after years of being smaller than everyone. Puberty stretched me on the rack until me arms and legs popped out their sockets and my neck almost snapped. This new body smelled damp. The butt jiggled, the thighs looked a mile wide in tights, and a soft double chin bubbled up. My ballet teacher pinched the extra inches, took away my solo, and told me to stop eating maple-walnut ice cream. I went from being the elegant swan to the ugly duckling that couldn’t walk without tripping over her own feet (p 165).
Lia isn’t interested in boys (though I guessed she might be interested in girls and that played out) or ballet or sports. Just knitting and reading but those felt artificial to me.
This book has none of the subtleties of Speak. Lia name-drops so many different authors (Gaiman, Tolkien, Pierce, Yolen) that I’m not sure it’s Lia talking but rather the author.
I found the book tedious; too many adjectives (“If you catch an adjective, kill it.” Mark Twain). And it didn’t add up. After speaking with a girl who had been anorexic for years, I was able to put my finger on it:
What rang true:
- Lia’s obsession with the scale. It’s always about the number.
- Lia’s enjoyment in cooking and watching others eat.
- Cassie’s experience (though limited stage time) as a bulimic
What didn’t work:
- Lia’s empty personality. She is her anorexia. And nothing more (Anorexia is usually a symptom of something else. In this case, Lia is a Peter Pan figure who can’t accept the changes adolescence brings.) She did nothing. And yet Cassie was extremely active. Lia was a poor choice for…
- The Narrator. Her mind was mush. Her thoughts needlessly repetitive. She may read to escape but she obviously doesn’t glean any wisdom from her readings (yet Gaiman is brilliant? To me, yes. But to a schizo-like Lia?).
- Lia wonders why everyone’s eyes are broken (she’s obviously fat!) and yet she talks about exposing her skeleton… so does she is think she fat unless her insides are out?
Ms. Yingling Reads also commented on the language: “The poetic language seemed out of sorts with the topic, somehow.” Though her review overall was favorable.