Wintergirls, by Laurie Halse Anderson

WintergirlsA couple of people have been telling me for months now that I should read Wintergirls.  It’s a really good book, they said.  “If you don’t like it,” offered one friend, “I’ll buy you a Taco Bell lunch” (my favorite).  She doesn’t owe me that meal…because Wintergirls really is a good book.  But it covers some pretty harsh topics—anorexia, cutting, mental disorders, a best friends’ death.  And it can get very weird inside the main character’s head.  Sometimes it’s hard to tell Lia’s reality from “real” reality as she spirals out of control, haunted by the desperate need to lose more pounds.  Food is her demon…and her obsession.  Throughout the book, any mention of food is followed by a precise calorie count.  It made me profoundly sad for Lia—for real girls exactly like her—that she can never, ever just enjoy a normal meal.  That Taco Bell lunch, for example:  it’s a reasonable amount of food, not in the least excessive, and I eat it without a second thought.  Lia wouldn’t—couldn’t—eat a fraction of it.  What must that be like?  A healthy enjoyment of food is one of the real pleasures of life.  No one should be deprived of that…least of all through a self-perception that food is the enemy.

Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson

Speak

The summer before her freshman year, Melinda goes to her first real guy-girl party….and her life is forever changed by a terrible event.

I’m a slow reader, but I read Speak in two days. What a compelling story.  And I felt as if I were right there in this girl’s mind. My only complaint is that I’d like to have known at the end how Melinda’s parents react when they finally learn of the dreadful thing that had happened earlier to their daughter, because I think it’s important for teens who read this book to feel like grownups will be there for them, and to feel that speaking up is absolutely the right thing to do. It is so freeing when Melinda ultimately finds her voice and stands up to her attacker….but again it would have added a lot to the story if real teens could see that the adults in one’s life WILL help when something so terrible occurs.