Monday, April 20, 2009

Real Girl vs Winter Girl

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
5Q 4P; Audience: (J)/S

Horrifying. Mesmerizing. Shocking. Tragic. Heartrending. Devastating. Exhausting. Unforgettable.

Back when Lia was a real girl, her parents weren't divorced. She had a best friend. She wasn't a fat pig. She wasn't starving herself. She wasn't cutting. She wasn't a wintergirl.

Wintergirl. Dead girl walking. That's what the kids at school call her. Being a wintergirl is just fine with Lia. That way she doesn't need to feel anything. But it doesn't really work that way. Lia feels too much. She just wishes she didn't feel anything. That was easier before Cassie died, before Cassie started haunting her, leaving her scent of cinnamon, cloves, and sugar hanging in the air along with her accusations and her entreaties to join her on the other side.

Lia and Cassie were best friends, right up until they weren't. They played together, got crushes on boys together, hated their parents together, got drunk together. They made a pact together: they would be the skinniest girls in school. ("But I'll be skinnier than you," said Lia.) Cassie binges and purges. Lia starves herself. They'll stay strong together. And then one day, Cassie turns her back on Lia. She won't even speak to her. Which is why, months later, Lia doesn't answer the phone when Cassie calls and calls and calls. (1...2...3...8...10...15...18...22...25...29...30...31...31...32...33. Silence.) Cassie is talking to her now. Now that she's dead, Cassie won't stop speaking to Lia, creeping into her room at night, following her to appointments, haunting her. If Lia stays strong, maybe she can make Cassie go away. Maybe she can make everything go away.

Musings and Quotes:

This was an achingly difficult and utterly engrossing book. While making note of some of the lines I wanted to quote, I also wrote "I feel trapped." There were times I felt I couldn't breathe. I could read only thirty or forty pages at a time before I had to take a break from it. But not everyone will feel that way. I handed the book to my fifteen-year-old niece and she didn't pick her eyes off the pages until she finished it less than four hours later.

The use of strikeouts ("my parents Dr. Marrigan and Professor Overbrook" or (paraphrasing) "I just want sweet, creamy, delicious ice cream slipping down my throat dry toast") to show the difference between what Lia thinks and feels and what she'll allow herself to acknowledge is brilliant.

There's a quotable line on every page (every paragraph). The language is evocative and the imagery is stunning. I know that I'm going to get hundreds of hits on this page, because that's what happens when I quote from Laurie Halse Anderson. Please, do yourself a favor. Read the book. Let yourself be moved by it. Quotes can give you the flavor of a book, but they can't do justice to it.

"Here stands a girl clutching a knife. There is grease on the stove, blood in the air, and angry words piled in the corner. 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." (p. 4)

"If I weren't so tired, I'd shove trust and issue down the garbage disposal and let it run all day." (p. 6)

"Last week's Thanksgiving was artificially sweetened, enriched with tense preservatives, and wrapped in plastic." (p. 30)

"Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of strange little girls screaming through their fingers...I scroll through our confessions and rants and prayers, desperation eating us one slow bloody bite at a time." (P. 112)

" 'What words are in your head right now, Lia?' Pissed. Pig. Hate...Jail. Coffin. Cut...Hungry. Dead." (pp. 115-116)

"I'm sure she's [Lia's mother] waiting for me in the family room, temperature at fifty-eight degrees, her lecture notes neatly arranged with my faults and mistakes listed in order of priority. She has charts to prove everything I do is wrong, and that my only hope is to allow them to insert her stem cells in my marrow so she can grow a new her dressed in my skin." (p. 148)

"Cassie opens her Pandora's box every night and hitches a ride to my room. She doesn't watch from the shadows anymore. She attacks. Once the sleeping pill straps my arms and legs down to the mattress, she opens my skull and rips out the wiring. She screams holes in my brain and pukes blood down my throat." (p. 183)

Laurie Halse Anderson has done it again. Wintergirls is going to join Speak as one of the classics of YA literature.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Agree? Disagree? Something you'd like to say in response? Feedback is welcome! Just keep it on topic, please. And if you found one of my booktalks and used it, I'd love to know how it worked for you.