I didn't mean to finish this tonight but I did and now I won't be able to sleep until I get my thoughts written down. So, tada, here are my thoughts.
Wintergirls focuses on Lia, a girl battling with anorexia when she learns her (former)best friend and eating disorder partner, Cassie, has died. Part of the novel - and part of why I stayed up so late reading it - is shrouded in the mystery of Cassie's death. Was it overdose, suicide, murder? These thoughts haunt Lia as she struggles with ghosts other than Cassie and works to be the skinniest there is.
This book is hard to read. So, so hard. I never once cried but as I type this I feel like I'm about to. I feel that heavy, choked up feeling. Anderson captures the nature of eating disorders, grief, and depression so viscerally that it's next to impossible for them to cut you to the core. I didn't feel this same ache when I read Speak and I think it's because the pain Lia feels is much easier to connect to. I know what it's like to be so depressed you want to hurt yourself and feel so hateful and angry and it shakes me up to experience those emotions again. If any of those issues have affected you in the past, I do advise caution when proceeding with this book. Seriously, it's a rough one.
That all said, I really loved it. I didn't want to stop reading. The mystery around Cassie's death is extremely compelling and I was desperate to know what happened to her. Other elements of the plot - Lia's relationships, Lia's obsession with loosing weight, Lia's overall descent if I can call it that - were equally compelling and I couldn't stop reading even after I learned what happened to Cassie.
Lia's an interesting protagonist. She's so full of pain that it's difficult to say I liked her. There were times where I wanted to shake her and just scream at her to snap out of it. It was really satisfying when other characters, like her parents, did that for me. But as much as she frustrated me, I wanted to see her succeed. Not in losing weight, of course, but in finding happiness. In recovering. I suppose that's natural whenever we see somebody suffering. Maybe that's why I connected to her, knowing that if she could just get help she could find the kind of happiness she didn't believe she could. I just wanted her to get better and my heart broke for her.
I really liked the character of her stepmother, Jennifer. She wasn't perfect but she was a warm, comforting person. It fits perfectly, I suppose, considering that Lia's supposed to be all cold. But it was nice to see one person who cared but didn't try to force recovery on her. There comes a point for that, of course, but it was nice to see someone who cared about more than just the end goal. Aside from Emma, Jennifer was really the only person in the book who I felt truly cared about Lia.
There were only two issues I had with the book. The first is the fantasy-reality bending imagery got a little distracting, especially at the end. All of Lia's visions and hallucinations sort of muddled things together to the point where there are a few plot points I didn't quite understand. This surprised me because Anderson's done similar things in her other novels but it works much better in them. Luckily this doesn't happen too much, just enough for me to be a little disappointed.
The other issue I had was Cassie's ghost. Like the visions, I felt her presence muddled the story a lot. Like, too much guessing of what was actually happening to Lia in reality. There were also times where she just didn't feel necessary. Instead it seemed like she was added for dramatic effect. Perhaps it's just me, but I just didn't care for her.
This book was hard to read and truly heartbreaking but I am so, so glad I read it. It was a beautiful ugly story, the kind that leaves you feeling changed afterwards. I wish my mom was here so I could hug her, since that's the kind of feeling it left me with. I'm petsitting a cat for a friend, so maybe I'll just hug him.
Final rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars. Highly recommend, but make sure you're in a good enough mood to handle it. Seriously, it'll punch you in the face.