Wintergirls- Laurie Halse Anderson
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.
Having enjoyed Speak, I decided to grab the other Anderson novel I've heard a lot about. Just as Speak was raw, so is Wintergirls. At first, Lia was too broken, so broken it was hard and rough to make it through the beginning pages. Even if you've never had an eating disorder, the feelings of inadequacy hit everyone when you desire control. This is first hand obsessive behavior without hope of resolution.
Listen, this book is horrifying. It's very, very real. Lia is fully realized, difficult to sympathize as an outsider and difficult to understand as an insider. There are no statistics and facts about self-image and eating disorders-just the disorganized painful thoughts of one.
My yardstick for knowing how real this novel gets is one particular instance. When she's talking about the online community support system for anorexics I remembered this one community I stumbled on and my 13 year old self was horrified at the idea of girls not eating and berating themselves for having a couple of pringles. This same horror and helplessness hit me again while reading this book. Cassie's bad death is the ultimate price for bulimia and despite the typical need of YA novel characters to overcome their problems, I was convinced Lia was going to die as well.
I do like this one quote from near the end: "I'm angry that I starved my brain and sat shivering my bed at night instead of dancing or reading poetry or eating ice cream or kissing a boy or maybe a girl with gentle lips and strong hands." It's a great step towards the recovery you desperately want Lia to have and it encapsulates, for me as someone who's never had one, the true tragedy of eating disorders.