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Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

y Laurie Halse Anderson

Publishing Information: Viking: New York, 2008
ISBN: 9780670011100 / 9780142415573 (PB) / 9781423391869 (Audio)
: 278 p.
Ages: 13 & Up

Most people think Lia is too thin, but she wants to be thinner. Despite the fact that she knows better, she lets her eating disorder consume her until she reaches the breaking point.

Lia and Cassie have been best friends for a long time. And now Cassie is gone. She was found dead and alone in a motel room. After leaving Lia 33 messages that Lia ignored. Is there something that Lia could have done to save her friend? Lia doesn't even recognize the self-destructive tendencies in her own life. The anorexia, the cutting, the low self image. Even after lots of therapy and threats from her parents, Lia is still obsessed with her weight. She plays the game of getting better but delights in seeing the numbers on the scale go down everyday. 101.30, 97.00, 89.00 ...

Book Talk:
33 times. That’s how many times Cassie called Lia the night she died, but Lia didn’t pick up. Now, Cassie’s ghost is haunting Lia and her visits are becoming more and more frequent. But there’s more than just Cassie’s ghost haunting Lia. Lia has been hospitalized in the past to treat her anorexia and her guilt over Cassie’s death causes her self-destructive behaviors to accelerate. The voice inside Lia’s head keeps telling her to remain in control, stay strong, lose more, weigh less. If she keeps going this way – thin, thinner, thinnest—she may disappear altogether.

Subject Headings & Major Themes:

Anorexia Nervosa
Dysfuncitonal Families
Eating Disorders

Awards & Reviews:
Amelia Bloomer Project, 2010
Arizona Grand Canyon Reader Award Nominee, 2011
Best fiction for young Adults, 2010
Booklist Editor's Choice, 2009
Bulletin Blue Ribbons, 2009
Capital Choices, 2010
Coloroado Blue Spruce Award Nominee, 2012
Georgia Peach Award Nominee, 2011
Iowa High School Book Award Nominee, 2011
Kentucky Bluegrass Award Nominee, 2010
Kirkus Best Young Adult Books, 2009
Missouri Gateway Readers Award Nominee, 2012
New Hampshire Flume Award Nominee, 2011
Publisher's Weekly Best CHildren's Books, 2009
Tennessee Volunteer State Book Award Nominee, 2012
Texas Tayshas Reading List, 2012
Young Adult Library Services Assocaition Best Books for Young Adults, 2010
Young Adult Library Services Association Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, 2010

Booklist, December 15, 2008 (Starred Review)
Horn Book, March 1, 2009
Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 2009
Publishers Weekly, February 26, 2009 (Starred Review)
School Library Journal, February 1, 2009 (Starred Review)
Teacher Librarian, June 1, 2009
VOYA: Voice of Youth Advocates, April 1, 2009

Discussion Questions and Ideas:

  1. Read the two epigraphs printed at the front of the book. How do you think each relates to Lia and her situation?
  2. What do the crossed-out words and phrases reveal about Lia? Why can't she allow herself to say or think some things? What is she afraid will happen if she does?
  3. Define "wintergirl." In what ways are Lia and Cassie frozen? Discuss the symbolism of winter and cold found throughout the story and the role it plays in building the main themes of the novel.
  4. Does Lia want to lose weight so she will look thin and pretty? What does her thinness mean to her? How does she think it gives her power?
  5. Does Cassie's death trigger Lia's restrictive eating patterns to reemerge? Why or why not?
  6. "Empty" becomes synonymous with "strong" for Lia throughout most of the story. How does Lia justify this comparison? Do her feelings ever change?
  7. Lia repeats the phrase "When I was a real girl . . . " If she's not real now, what is she? When did she stop being real? Will she ever be real again?
  8. The night Cassie dies, why does she call Lia? Would it have made a difference if Lia had answered? Why or why not? Could anything have saved Cassie?
  9. In the newspaper article about Cassie's death, the superintendent of schools says, "Most teens today struggle with something." Do you agree? Explain your opinion.
  10. What is friendship? Describe the important elements of Lia and Cassie's relationship. Are they really friends?
  11. Describe Lia's relationships with her mother, father, Jennifer, and Emma. How is Lia different with each of them? What do they each contribute to her situation?How do they each influence her?
  12. Lia is particular about the names she calls her family members (i.e. "Jennifer" instead of Stepmother, "Dr. Marrigan" instead of Mom, "Professor Overbrook" instead of Dad). What does this reveal about what Lia thinks of her family members?
  13. Discuss the line: "I pretend to be a fat, healthy teenager. They pretend to be my parents." What does this line expose about Lia's feelings for her parents? What does Lia's frequent use of the word "pretend" throughout the book tell you about the way she views others? Why does Lia feel she and others must pretend?
  14. What does Lia think makes her strong? What do you think of as Lia's strengths? Would Lia agree with you? How does Lia's perception of strength change toward the end of the story?
  15. What do we learn from Cassie's ghost? Does her presence help or hinder Lia on her path to recovery? What does Cassie's ghost come to symbolize by the end of the novel?
  16. Discuss Lia's relationship with Elijah. When she first meets him and lies about her identity, why do you think she chooses to give her stepsister's name as her own? What is Elijah able to give Lia that the other people in her life cannot? What do you think about the way their relationship ends?
  17. What role does Lia's knitting play in the novel? What does it come to symbolize?
  18. Elijah calls himself "a wanderer in search of truth." Does he find truth by the end of the story? Does Lia? Are any of the other characters able to do so? Explain.
  19. Lia's mother tells her: "Cassie had everything: a family who loved her, friends, activities. Her mother wants to know why she threw it all away."  According to Lia, asking "why" Cassie died is the wrong question. She says to ask "why not." What do you think she means by this? Which do you think is the right question to ask? Is there an answer to either?
  20. Why do you think Lia and Cassie took their eighth grade New Year's resolutions so seriously? How do these promises play into the rest of the story?
  21. Lia's dad says to her: "I wish I understood what goes on inside you . . . why you're so afraid." Is fear part of Lia's problem? What is she afraid of?
  22. What is Lia using her thinness to communicate to her parents? What is her body saying that her voice cannot?
  23. Why do you think Lia finally opens up to Dr. Parker? What do you think of what she chooses to tell her? How does the conversation change Lia's situation?
  24. Dr. Parker tells Lia: "In one aspect, yes, I believe in ghosts, but we create them." Do you agree with her? How much of what happens to Lia is a result of her own doing? How much of it is caused by others?
  25. What does the "see–glass" mean to Lia? What does she think she needs it for? Does this end up being true?
  26. What ultimately changes for Lia by the end of the story? Why does she survive when Cassie didn't?

Related Websites:
Author's Website -
Eating Disorders: Facts for Teens -
Eating Disorders Help Guide -
Teenagers with Eating Disorders -§ion=Facts+for+Families
Teens Health: Eating Disorders -
WebMD: Understanding Eading Disorders in Teens -

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Big Fat Manifesto
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Empty: A Story of Anorexia
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Faded Denim: Color Me Trapped
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Girls Under Pressure
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I Am an Artichoke
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Inside Out: Portrait of an Eating Disorder
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Shrink to Fit
by Dona Sarkar, 2008
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Squashed by Joan Bauer, 1992
Stick Figure: A Diary of My Former Self
by Lori Gottlieb (2001 RITBA Nominee)
by Sara Zarr
by Liane Shaw, 2009
by Lesley Fairfield, 2009

Other Books by the Author:
Forge, 2010
Time to Fly, 2009
Fear of Falling, 2009
The Hair of Zoe Fleefenbacher Goes to School, 2009
Independent Dames: What You Never Knew About the Women and Girls of the American Revolution, 2008
Chains, 2009 (2011 RITBA Nominee)
, 2007
Prom, 2005
The Big Cheese of Third Street, 2002
, 2002 (2004 RITBA Nominee)
End of the Race, 2002
Masks, 2002
Thank You, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving, 2002
Fear of Falling, 2001
Manatee Blues
, 2001
Saudi Arabia
, 2001
Say Good-bye, 2001
Storm Rescue, 2001
Teacher's Pet
, 2001
, 2001
Fever, 1793, 2000
Fight for Life, 2000
Homeless, 2000
The Trickster, 2000
Speak, 1999 (2001 RITBA Nominee)
Turkey Pox, 1996
Ndito Runs, 1995

About the Author:
Laurie Halse Anderson became a finalist for the prestigious National Book Award with her first work of fiction for young adults, Speak. That 1999 novel won an array of honors for Anderson, the author of three earlier picture books for younger readers, for its searing portrayal of a fourteen-year-old girl who becomes mute after a sexual assault. Nancy Matson, writing for, hailed Anderson as "a gifted new writer whose novel shows that she understands (and remembers) the raw emotion and tumult that marks the lives of teenagers."

Anderson was born October 23, 1961, in the northern New York town of Potsdam. Her father was a Methodist minister who wrote poetry on the side, and as a girl Anderson loved to play with his typewriter. She once commented, "I decided to become a writer in second grade. My teacher, Mrs. Sheedy-Shea, taught us how to write haiku. The giant light bulb clicked on over my head: 'Oh, my goodness! I can do this!' I hope every second grader learns how to write haiku.

| ©2004 - Rhode Island Teen Book Award Committee | Aaron Coutu, Chair