What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know this is a very, very intense book about the mental and physical pain endured by teens with eating disorders. The two main characters, the "wintergirls" of the title, both have emotional problems that lead to and exacerbate their disorders. The book starts with Cassie dying from repetitive vomiting. The very graphic detail about their physical deterioration as the girls starve themselves is painful to read. Parents may find this award-winning book educational -- not only about the pressures today's teens feel, but also about the way these girls maintain their lies and how others enable them to do so.
What's the story?
Eighteen-year-old Lia wakes up to learn her former best friend, Cassie, has killed herself. The night she died she called Lia 33 times, and Lia didn't answer. In fifth grade, they were best friends, so close they swore to help each other be the skinniest girls in high school. When their eating disorders spiral out of control and repeated stays in treatment centers don't help, Lia finally distances herself from Cassie. Even though Lia can't give up her obsession with losing weight, she hates herself and relieves some of her mental anguish by cutting and self-medication. Her parents try to help but are easily fooled into believing she is better, even after Cassie dies from bulimia. Cassie continues to encourage Lia to starve herself even after she is dead by haunting her; and Lia's guilt helps drive her down into one more bout of starvation that sends her to the hospital again, where she is committed and treated for mental illness.
Is it any good?
WINTERGIRLS is very painful to read and very, very powerful. It is not for the faint of heart, but fans of Laurie Halse Anderson may find it hard to resist. Teens will find it depressing -- parents will find it even more so -- but Anderson's beautiful and evocative writing will compel them to read to the end. Anderson says in an afterward that she wrote this book because of so many readers who asked her to write about eating disorders, cutting, and feeling lost. It's hard to imagine anyone doing a better job.
An innovative style of journal writing is used to further illustrate a troubled mind -- some pages are blank while others feature crossed out words. Lia references fairy tales and fairy tale images that will appeal especially to female readers. This story has more brutality than a fairy tale from the Grimm brothers. As Lia says, there is no magic cure for girls like her, but there is a tiny, potent thimbleful of hope in the end.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about body image, healthy self-image, and cultural expectations for women's bodies. Parents may want to read through Common Sense Media's body image tips for girls and women, and even for boys.
Do you think this book's discussion of eating disorders will help prevent them (and provide support for victims)... or do books like these cause more teens to try out the methods described here? What responsibility does an author have for what her readers do after reading her book?
Also, this book has an official trailer, just like a movie. Have you seen these for books before? What do you think of this marketing effort? How else can publishers let teens know about new books?