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Eighteen-year-old Lia comes to terms with her best friend's death from anorexia as she struggles with the same disorder.

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Eighteen-year-old Lia comes to terms with her best friend's death from anorexia as she struggles with the same disorder.

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  • Laurie Halse Anderson - Wintergirls
    Laurie Halse Anderson - Wintergirls  

Editorial Reviews

Nora Krug
Anderson…isn't a scaremonger or a schoolmarm. "I never set out to send messages," she has said. "I set out to tell a good story." In Wintergirls, she has done just that. Lia's tale is both painful to read and riveting. Unfortunately, many young women will relate to her despair, and if the novel helps them find solace or hope, all the better. Same goes for their parents.
—The Washington Post
Barbara Feinberg
Anderson, the author of Speak and other award-winning novels for teenagers, has written a fearless, riveting account of a young woman in the grip of a deadly illness.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Acute anorexia, self-mutilation, dysfunctional families and the death of a childhood friend-returning to psychological minefields akin to those explored in Speak, Anderson delivers a harrowing story overlaid with a trace of mysticism. The book begins as Lia learns that her estranged best friend, Cassie, has been found dead in a motel room; Lia tells no one that, after six months of silence, Cassie called her 33 times just two days earlier, and that Lia didn't pick up even once. With Lia as narrator, Anderson shows readers how anorexia comes to dominate the lives of those who suffer from it (here, both Lia and Cassie), even to the point of fueling intense competition between sufferers. The author sets up Lia's history convincingly and with enviable economy-her driven mother is "Mom Dr. Marrigan," while her stepmother's values are summed up with a précis of her stepsister's agenda: "Third grade is not too young for enrichment, you know." This sturdy foundation supports riskier elements: subtle references to the myth of Persephone and a crucial plot line involving Cassie's ghost and its appearances to Lia. As difficult as reading this novel can be, it is more difficult to put down. Ages 12-up. (Mar.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Readers will be absorbed by this gripping tale . . . starred review
Anderson illuminates a dark but utterly realistic world . . . this is necessary reading. Starred review
Children's Literature - Amanda MacGregor
Eighteen-year-old anorexic Lia is already emotionally fragile when she learns that Cassie, her former best friend, has died. Cassie died alone in a motel room and Lia had let the thirty-three incoming calls from her go unanswered that night. Now Lia feels guilty and starts seeing Cassie everywhere, haunting her, talking to her, encouraging her to push her eating disorder as far as her body will take it. Lia notes every calorie she eats, exercises long hours into the night, and sees herself not as sick but as strong. Already hospitalized twice for her anorexia, Lia knows how to trick her family into thinking she is making progress, all the while fading away right in front of them. At five feet five inches tall, Lia weighs ninety-nine pounds and hopes to get down to eighty-five, knowing it will make her want to be seventy-five. Her illness and her struggle over Cassie's death threaten to push her past the point of return. Anderson has created a haunting and startling narrator in Lia, who drags the reader right into the vortex of her constantly spinning mind, her narration shifting between poetic and manic. Lia's agonizing battle with food, her family issues, old memories, and self-mutilation episodes are often difficult to read but also make the book impossible to put down. Fans of Anderson's previous books may find this her most moving, complex, powerful, and important book yet. Cassie may haunt Lia, but Lia will surely haunt readers long after they finish this book. Reviewer: Amanda MacGregor
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—After the death of her former best friend Cassie, 18-year-old Lia slowly spirals toward her own death, drowning in guilt while starving, cutting, and running on a treadmill in the middle of the night in this emotional novel (Viking, 2009) by Laurie Halse Anderson, winner of the 2009 Margaret A. Edwards Award. Her father is in denial and her mother is distant; her stepmother and little sister look on helplessly. Lyrically visual, this starkly truthful and chilling first-person tale is narrated convincingly by Jeannie Stith, who perfectly mimics the sarcasm and angst of a teen girl's struggle with anorexia. An interview with the author concludes the audiobook. Recommended for Anderson's fans and those who enjoy books by Sonya Sones and Ellen Hokins.—Terry Ann Lawler, Phoenix Public Library, AZ
Kirkus Reviews
Neither therapy nor threats nor her ex-best friend's death can turn Lia away from her habits of cutting and self-starvation. In broken, symbolic and gut-wrenching prose, Lia narrates her hopeless story of the destructive behaviors that control her every action and thought. She lives for both the thrill and the crash of not eating, and any progress she may have made toward normal eating is erased when her former best friend Cassie dies alone in a hotel room. The trauma of Cassie's death coupled with Lia's strained relationship with her parents and stepmother makes her tighten her focus on not eating as she slides into a world of starvation-induced hallucinations. Uncontrollable self-accusations ("Stupid/ugly/stupid/bitch/stupid/fat") and compulsive calorie counts punctuate her claustrophobic account, which she edits chillingly to control her world. Anderson perfectly captures the isolation and motivations of the anorexic without ever suggesting that depression and eating disorders are simply things to "get over." Due to the author's and the subject's popularity, this should be a much-discussed book, which rises far above the standard problem novel. (Fiction. YA)
Children's Literature - Julia Oltmann
Cassie and Lia are best friends and have been since elementary school. As they grow up, they both develop serious eating disorders and eventually become competitive over who can get the thinnest. Their diseases spiral out of control, causing their friendship to end badly with Cassie judging Lia harshly. One night, months later, Lia receives thirty-three phone calls from Cassie— but she doesn't answer because of lingering resentment. The next day, Lia learns that Cassie was found dead in a motel room. From there, the story outlines Lia's emotional battle with guilt and how she attempts to deal with it. Anderson's unique use of language gives the reader an insight into Lia's thoughts and feelings; her torment is demonstrated through cross-outs, italics, and blank spaces. The first-person narrative allows the reader to identify personally with Lia, which is appropriate for a young adult audience and helpful in understanding her character. The dangers and severity of eating disorders are portrayed in a dark yet enlightening way. Overall, this book is a moving account of a teenager's life and struggle to find herself after losing a friend. Reviewer: Julia Oltmann
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781608475087
  • Publisher: Findaway World
  • Publication date: 5/28/2009
  • Format: Other
  • Edition description: Playaway Edition with Headphones
  • Age range: 13 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 4.60 (w) x 7.80 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Laurie Halse Anderson
Laurie Halse Anderson is descended from many soldiers who fought in the American Revolution. While researching Forge, she walked barefoot in the snow, cooked over open fires, wrote by candlelight, split wood, and gained a new appreciation for the sacrifices made by our ancestors who were committed to the freedom of all people. She is a New York Times bestselling author of many novels and picture books. Known for tackling tough subjects with humor and sensitivity, her work has earned numerous ALA and state awards. Her books Speak and Chains were National Book Award Finalists. In 2009, Chains also received the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction, and Laurie was honored with the Margaret A. Edwards Award given by the Young Adult Library Services Association. She lives in northern New York.

Follow the author’s adventures on Twitter at

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 587 )
Rating Distribution

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 589 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 3, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Emily Ann for

    Chilling. Even many days after reading WINTERGIRLS, I still shiver when I think about this book. <BR/><BR/>Lia has struggled with an eating disorder before. Her parents think that she is getting better, but she is just fooling everyone. When Cassie, who used to be her best friend, dies, Lia spirals out of control again. <BR/><BR/>She eats less and less and begins seeing Cassie's ghost everywhere. <BR/><BR/>WINTERGIRLS explores the world of eating disorders with vivid, horrifying detail. <BR/><BR/>Even though this book was really creepy, it was also spectacular. I had never understood how or why some people began to have eating disorders, and this book gave a spectacular insight into their state of mind.

    40 out of 43 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2009

    Amazing...utterly amazing.

    Not only was this book an excellent portrayal of a teenager with anorexia but it also was a an extensive view into the mind of a cutter and someone who deals with hallucinations. This book may be hard to read for some people. If you are thinking about reading it, make sure that you are...i guess mentally prepared for it. It can be extremely heart wrenching. But if you do decide to read won't be disappointed. I loved reading every minute of it. Lia's character is sarcastic and can be quite funny at times. I would recommend this book to anyone.

    26 out of 26 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 4, 2009

    more from this reviewer


    Laurie Halse Anderson is not one to shy away from difficult topics. Her debut novel Speak deals with the issue of teen rape was lets just say it was incredible. In her latest, Wintergirls, Anderson deftly addresses the devastating effects of eating disorders.

    Wintergirls is the story of Lia who daily fights a battle between herself and food. She's already been hospitalized twice for her eating disorder where she played the 'recovery game' until doctors and parents were satisfied and gave her enough breathing room to go back to her old habits. It's the one thing Lia constantly concentrates on in the midst of divorced parents who are too busy to notice her and school that doesn't really matter. How many calories (or lack there of) each day. How much she exercises. But then Lia begins to face the realities of her choices when she finds out that her (ex)best friend, Cassie, who also had an eating disorder, has died. As she stumbles deeper into grief, Lia tries to determine not the reason why Cassie killed herself, but why not?

    What amazes me is how accurately Anderson is able to portray a teenager who feels constantly at odds with her family, herself and especially food. She is so isolated, so alone with the pain and destructive feelings in her head it seems to the reader she'll never be able to pull herself out. Lia's isolation is underscored by her nightly visits to supersecret and honestly so competely depressing online chat groups for anorexic/bulimic girls who discuss their struggle to lose that last 10, 15, even 25 pounds. Nameless girls who like Lia try to control the chaos of their lives by controlling their body.

    Wintergirls was not an easy read nor was it easy to put down. I alternated between pity, depression and down right horror at the things Lia put herself and consequently, her family through. Though this is a teen novel, I would hesitate to give it to just any teen girl - it's something that needs to be digested with a little bit of maturity and sensitivity. But was it a heartbreaking beautiful novel that will stick with me a long time? Absolutely.

    13 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 28, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Wow. This book was amazing.

    I couldn't set this book down. I read it in a few short hours and it spoke to me. I suffered from anorexia and it portrayed an everyday struggle. It was a beautiful book and i will surely be sharing it with my friends. Warning: If you have ever suffered from an ED the begining may cause triggering thoughts.

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 20, 2010

    Would Not Recommend. Ending Is Highly Impractical.

    Although this book may be fast moving, the ending is utterly pointless. It has that perfect fairy tale ending, where everyone goes away all happy and better. In real life this is not what would happen. Furthermore, the book is not well written and the character's traits and points of view do not remain consistent.

    3 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 15, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I'll Try My Best to Desribe My Love for This One

    Raw, painful, realistic, sad, beautiful, heart wrenching . . . all these words can be used to describe Wintergirls.

    I knew going into this one that it deals with eating disorders. But Wintergirls deals with so much more. It touches on loss, depression, family problems, and cutting. It was a very heavy read. Unbelievably sad. But it was one of the most beautifully written stories I have read so far. My hand stayed over my heart just about the whole time I was reading Wintergirls.

    Cassie and Lia care about nothing but being the thinnest. Their obsession costs Cassie her life. Cassie's death leaves Lia in a terrible, self-destructive state. The emotions get to you so much that you felt them like your own. You are put inside the head of an extreme anorexic. Someone who can barley eat, but has food on the brain constantly. Every time you eat is a punishment. Every little speck of food must be counted. It was exhausting. I couldn't imagine ever having to live like that. But at the same time, you can completely understand where Lia is coming from. We have all gone through times that we mentally kick ourselves for eating too much. Multiply that by 100, and you are getting closer to the misery Lia is in. Now living with the guilt of a lost friend only makes it worse. Lia's struggle wasn't like anything else I have ever read before. The author brings to life her voice in a way that will wrap around your mind and hold you captive until the very last page.

    The writing is unbelievably lyrical and poetic. It did a wonderful job at magnifying the emotions. Many of the jarring and raw descriptions stayed in my head long after I put the book down. I also liked how Anderson crosses out many words in the book to show Lia's struggle.

    Wintergirls is a book that is very hard to digest, but so worth it if you do. It's a book that is read through the cracks of your fingers as you are covering your eyes. It will make you take a good look at your own relationship with food. Because no one would ever want to live life the way Lia does. I am very glad I read Wintergirls. A little piece of Lia and her story will forever be with me now.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 7, 2010


    The first book that i read by Laurie Halse Anderson was Speak, during my sophomore year of High School. I found the book to be well written and very good. When i found out about Wintergirls, i knew i had to read it! After spending the past 3 days reading it... i am just... really shocked and sort of at lost for words on how to describe just how powerful this book is!

    Two young girls, best friends forever, under cold moonlight, cut and bind blood- making an oath to be the skinniest girl at their school. What seems to be an ordinary bet between friends reveals dangerous consequences as Lia's best friend Cassie is found dead in a motel room. Although the two drifted apart, Lia feels haunted by her best friend's spirit.

    95 pounds is not enough for Lia- she still feels hideous and fat, she can feel the excess fat hanging on the sides of her body, she can taste and smell the calories within the food she is forced to eat. Although she was treated in the past, it was not enough to make her see the damage that she has done to herself. With Cassie gone, Lia has won the bet- but just how far can she pass that bet? What comes after a size zero? What happens when no one can understand Lia's torment?

    Laurie Halse Anderson writing is very lyrical and raw in this book- especially of Lia's Character. Anorexia is a very dark and delicate subject to write or talk about- although we all know the physical damage that it does to a person, we don't really get to see or have a clear image of the mental and psychological effects it has. In this book, when we read from Lia's POV we can perfectly see her inner struggles. With every crossed out line of words in the pages, we can see how she fights herself from not eating, how she pushes herself so hard to obtain her weight goal.

    It is both haunting and sad reading about Lia. No girl should have to endure such a torment for body image, no one should hurt themselves the way Lia does. This was a very well written book, for all of those who have read Speak, please take a look at Wintergirls!

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 6, 2009


    i found the book boring. the way the author wrote reminded me of poetry. but there was so much going on in the girl's head that i couldn't really grasp the story. if you want to learn how many calories food items have, then read this book.

    3 out of 23 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Very wierd

    Winter girls was a very unusall and disturbing book. It was also very emotional, when i was reading i could feel her pain, lost, and anger. i would not recomend this book for people who like thriller, fantasy, or horror. But for someone who like emotional, strange, or depresing, this is a good book for you.

    3 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 20, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A Hard Read, Without a Doubt

    I read this book knowing that it would be a hard topic to read about. The author's writing style is unique, crisp, & blunt as if the book itself was written out of the mind of a teenager. A realistic depiction of what a battle with anorexia is like, Wintergirls leaves you with both relief and a cold emptiness inside. I wouldn't suggest this book to someone who can't take the tough topic of anorexia, because the emotion and struggle written across every page is real enough to touch. A great work done by the author, but a word of caution should be given to anyone who wants just a 'good book to relax and read'. Wintergirls opens your eyes to what life from inside a block of ice is like, and how, even though everyone around you tells you that you need to stop, when your mind is set on getting you thinner and thinner, you can't stop even if you want to.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 25, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Wintergirls has at least one thing going for it. It was beautifu

    Wintergirls has at least one thing going for it. It was beautifully written.

    Other than that, I wasn't too impressed. I don't feel like I was able to really connect with the characters. The storyline wasn't very engaging.

    [SPOILER-Y] The guy from the motel made no sense to me. I'm not sure why he was even a part of the story. If Anderson wanted a way to have Cassie tell Lia she won, she could have picked a different way to do it, one that made more sense than throwing an uninteresting character into the mix. [END]

    NOTE: While I have never dealt with any type of eating disorder, I imagine that Wintergirls could have triggering effects for someone who deals with eating disorder issues. Please take caution when reading. Thank you.

    You can read this and other reviews on my blog, KDH Reviews.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 26, 2012

    This book was awesome! So well written (round of applause,anyone

    This book was awesome! So well written (round of applause,anyone?) and
    very captivating. Fast moving and easily read. But this is a trigger
    book (as in might lead you to look differently at yourself) and very
    depressing. I enjoyed this book and read it fast (slow reader and short
    attention span.)

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 1, 2012

    ~ A five star book~

    This book could be described in three simple words. Astounding,raw, and true. I compulsively read this book, not putting it down for a second, and finished it in a few hours. Throughout the story, there was many moments where the tears just poured out of my eyes. On many occasions when it happened, it was usually when Lia( main character) would purposelly hurt herself, or when she would tell hersef that she was fat or worthless. Lia and Cassie(her bestfriend) make a little competition with eachother to see who could be the thinnest. Slowly, both of them start wasting away, and Cassie dies. Lia is left thinking she is at fault. Many times Cassie would want to back down and Lia would convince her to stay, which made Lia's assumption realistic. Along with the fact that; in the hours leading up to her death, Cassie called Lia many times, asking for help. And Lia didnt get them until it was to late. So Lia goes through life in the same pattern, cutting and starving. Self harm and starving. She travels along the road to self destruction.But soon, after a near death experience, Lia finally obliges, and lets herself take a detour, to the road of recovery. This is a great read, one of my favorites. It helps girls realize that life isnt about being thin, but about being happy and confident. Or its just an interesting story, that grabs onto your heart and doesnt let go, even after you turn the last page
    ~ Sydney Leigh

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 16, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    I LOVE IT!

    I just love Laurie Anderson's novels, when I got this book from my high school I wasn't sure it won't be good like her other novel Speak but I felled in love with the book, every page and chapter just get's you suspicion high. Wanting to know what is going to happen next. I highly recommend this book if you love her other novels like speak
    I am re-reading this book this is going to be my 3rd time I am reading it, it's that good.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 11, 2010

    Very good book.

    This book cannot be fully descibed in words... all i can say is that this book is truly breathtakingly sad and really puts you into the mind of an anorexic teen. I recommened this book to anyone but i am warning you this book is really sad and you should really mentally prepare yourself for what you are about to read because its not only sad but kind of scary as well.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 29, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Crazy Good

    This Story is amazing! I was really busy when i started reading it so it took me forever to get through, but i finally had a free day. I read the rest of the book in that day!! It is an amazing book. It's real life, heart-wrenching. You will fall in love with the characters in this book. You will feel what they felt in the situations they as they go through them. You will probably be able to relate to this book or know someone who does. Lia & Cassie were best friends until a couple years before Cassie died. Cassie hasn't found the light yet, and it still with Lia. Cassie called Lia in the motel before she took her life, but Lia didn't answer. She remembers this everyday and Cassie doesn't let her forget it. This is a truly amzaing book. A must read!!! Filled with real life situations teens go through everyday. Eating disorders, Cutting, Sucide (SP?) and everything in between!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2015

    a. This novel opened my eyes to the struggles of those with anor

    a. This novel opened my eyes to the struggles of those with anorexia nervosa. The actions of the girl whose life was hijacked by this disease bothered me; I never truly understood the feelings of an individual with this disorder. I am a healthy, slender girl who has the occasional insecurity concerning my appearance, similar to most teenage girls. However Mia, the girl commanded by anorexia, hates herself with such a passion that she eats under 500 calories a day while forcing herself to follow a strict exercise routine. She tries to seek self-acceptance and self-worth by attempting to meet her continuously lower weight goal; she has warped her mind to believe that her ultimate goal is to weigh zero pounds, nothing. Part of the beauty of this novel, and of reading in general, is the ability I had to see glimpses of myself in Mia when she stares at herself in the mirror and recognizes what she would change. I became entrapped in her world and experienced her struggles; at the end I gained not only understanding of the girls who face the fears anorexia brings, but also a greater understanding of myself. I am Mia. Reading this novel made me more capable of empathizing with those controlled by anorexia, because I too have the occasional doubt.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2013


    The only thing i can say to this is wow

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 18, 2013

    Wow. What a beautiful book. Having gone through a similar diffic

    Wow. What a beautiful book. Having gone through a similar difficulty, I find Lia to be a very relatable and realistic character. Yes, this book is graphic and can be disturbing to some, as it takes you right inside the head of a young girl who is self destructive and mentally unstable. But it is also very real, and may help to raise awareness of problems like eating disorders and cutting. A stunning book, beautifully written, with a supernatural twist- it is perfect, and I will read it over and over again. 

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 4, 2012

    Great Book!!!!!!!!!

    A heart wretching novel full of sadness and struggle to get through lifes hardest times and the struggle of eating dissorders. Beautifully writen and a must reas for everyone.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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