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Author Laurie Halse Anderson
Country United States
Language English
Genre Fiction
Publisher Viking
Publication date
Media type Hardback and paperback
Pages 278 pp (first edition, hardback)
ISBN 978-0-670-01110-0 (first edition, hardback)
OCLC 255902817
LC Class PZ7.85 Wi 2009

Wintergirls is a fiction novel by Laurie Halse Anderson. It tells the story of a girl, Lia Overbrook, who suffers from anorexia and self harm. She struggles to fight her mental illness while balancing everything else in her life. Months after a fall out with her best friend Cassie, Lia receives news that she has died from bulimia. Lia's fight for her life becomes even more difficult.

Melvin Burgess of The Guardian says, "The true nature of anorexia is made painfully clear. Lia starves herself because it is the only control she has over her disintegrating personality; anyway, why feed something so hateful? She cuts herself not to cause pain, but to let the pain – and the dirt – out. The dirt in this case is, of course, herself. As with the plotting, this fractured and utterly convincing interior monologue is intercut with the rather bored face she presents to the world around her.

And yet, throughout, there is the feeling that if somehow you could only reach in and talk to this girl, you could save her life. It's an exhausting novel to read: brilliant, intoxicating, full of drama, love and, like all the best books of this kind, hope. It would be rare to find a novel in mainstream adult fiction prepared to pull out the dramatic stops this far, and difficult to imagine one in recent years that was prepared to be so bold stylistically. It's a book that will be around for many years. It may not be an original piece, as these tricks have been pulled before in teen fiction. Yet it pulls them off with more skill and effect than anything I have ever read." [1]

The Washington Post called the book "both painful to read and riveting".[2] The New York Times said that "We recognize Lia, but it's sometimes hard to relate to her."[3]


18-year-old Lia Overbrook has just found out that her ex-best friend Cassie is dead. Cassie had called her 33 times the night of her death, but Lia didn't answer. She was found in a hotel room, killed by her illness: bulimia. Lia, who has a history of anorexia, falls into a downward spiral of self harm and calorie counting. Trying to hide her illness from her family, she worsens and recovery seems impossible.

Her relationship with her step-mother, Jennifer, is complicated, but Jennifer's eight year old daughter, Lia's step sister, Emma, is one thing that keeps Lia happy. She has been dealing with this eating disorder for quite some time and none of the help she received has made much of a difference. Lia finds it hard to get close to her father and step-mother because they forced her into the hospital in the past.

Soon, Cassie's ghost starts haunting Lia, making her feel guilty for not picking up the phone that night and not being there for her ex-best friend the night she died. Lia believes that if she had picked up, Cassie would still be alive. As Lia's self harm gets increasingly worse, Cassie's haunting becomes more aggressive.

Desperately, Lia goes to the motel room where Cassie dies and takes a handful of sleeping pills, trying to block out the voices and get some rest. Since her weight is so low, Lia wakes up in the hospital, finally realizing that she wants to live.

Awards and nominations[edit]

Wintergirls was nominated for many state awards, making it as a New York Times bestseller and ALA best book for young adults.[4] In 2009, the novel received the Kirkus Reviews as best YA book while in 2010 it made the YALSA list as well as receiving recognition from Chicago tribune as one of the top ten influential books of the decade.[5]


Wintergirls has received mostly positive reviews from critics. The Guardian states "It's an exhausting novel to read: brilliant, intoxication, full of drama, love, and like all the best books of this kind, hope."[6] rated the novel five stars, saying that the novel's writing style is innovative and that Lia's reference to fairy tale images makes it very appealing to female readers.[7] Some critics have also been concerned that Wintergirls could serve as a "trigger" novel, which encourages eating disorders. inquires that "read without supervision or discussion [for vulnerable teens] Wintergirls could indeed be triggering. But if read as part of a conversation...perhaps it could make a teen's world a little less dark."[8]


  1. ^ "Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson - review". The Guardian. January 29, 2011. Retrieved June 17, 2016. 
  2. ^ "Reviews of 'A Comrade Lost and Found' and 'Wintergirls'". The Washington Post. February 4, 2013. Retrieved March 10, 2011. 
  3. ^ "Skin and Bone". The New York Times. May 8, 2009. Retrieved March 10, 2011. 
  4. ^ Halse Anderson, Laurie. "Wintergirls". madwomanintheforest. Retrieved 10 May 2016. 
  5. ^ Halse Anderson, Laurie. "Wintergirls". 
  6. ^ Burgess, Melvin. "Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson Review". The Guardian. 
  7. ^ Bogart, Debra. "Wintergirls". 
  8. ^ North, Anna. "Wintergirls: Possibly Triggering, Definitely Thought-Provoking".