Girl of Skin and Bones: “Wintergirls” Review

Girl of Skin and Bones:

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Wintergirls is a powerful disclosure of mental illnesses that are made prevalent by today’s society. The deep emotions buried within each line gave me chills up my spine, along with winces and tears. Many mysteries and problems are left unsolved at the end, but the story genuinely fulfilled and exhausted me. 

Wintergirls brought me inside the head of this anorexic girl, Lia. The plot develops based on her feelings, strategically switching up the pace of progression every once in a while. Lia’s language is full of irony, so sharp that it becomes almost an art. I noticed the frequent use of metaphors, broken-up phrases, and one-sentence paragraphs that intensified the drama. Some great displays of these techniques include the following quotes from the book:

       “We held hands when we walked down the gingerbread path into the forest… We danced with witches and kissed monsters. We turned us into wintergirls; when she tried to leave, I pulled her back into the snow because I was afraid to be alone.” (99)

       “The only number that would ever be enough is 0. Zero pounds, zero life, size zero, double-zero, zero point. Zero in tennis is love. I finally get it.” (220)

       “I am spinning the silk threads of my story, weaving the fabric of my world. The tiny elf dancer became a wooden doll whose strings were jerked by people not paying attention. I spun out of control. Eating was hard. Breathing was hard. Living was hardest.” (277)

 

The painfully vivid scenes brought the fiction to life, making me feel like I merged into Lia’s body, went through all the hunger, numbness, and devastation.

Although the stage of Lia’s illness barely changes until the very end, I did not find the story monotonous at all. Through various angles, Lia exposes the widening cracks on the walls of her family, school, doctor, and, last but not least, herself. Every time she denies her illness with indifference … or drowns in tears of helplessness and shame, my heart ached with hers. She undergoes so many layers of pain that it is impossible not to sympathize with her. 

Some would argue that this book glorifies eating disorders, but I would say that it could be the exact opposite if interpreted so. Though I could see how Lia’s dangerous methods of losing weight might be suggestive for some readers, the story clearly focuses on the negative aspect of self-harm. It is warning us not to become Lia by emphasizing the element of pain. 

Rather than thinking of anorexia as an inspiration for a phenomenal story, we should consider it a means of revealing society’s issues. The author, Laurie Halse Anderson, worked with psychotherapist Gail Simon to present Lia’s behaviors accurately. When the facts are stated so straightforwardly, it is on our end to decide which direction the story is inclining toward. 

Many teenage girls in the era of social media can become obsessed with their weight. Lia is a reflection of all the ones who drift off onto the wrong path. Her suffering allows us to see the darkness in society that we often choose to ignore. 

Reading this book felt like swimming in a sea of mixed emotions, tasting the subtle changes in the water. There are so many layers to peel off, so many ways to dig into the words. Just like any other literary masterpiece, the story of Wintergirls does not end after you are done reading. It lingers in your mind and keeps you thinking. If you enjoy raw, lyrical writing and want something worth crying for, then Wintergirls is for you.