Author Encounters and a Book Review: Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

The first book related tears in the new year goes to Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson, the January pick for my Not-So-YA book club at Little Shop of Stories in Decatur, GA. I made it through three quarters of this somber novel before the floodgates were thoroughly breeched.

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Wintergirls is the seemingly hopeless story of two best friends Lia and Cassie who make a dangerous pact: “let’s be skinniest together.” When Cassie loses her life to bulimia, Lia must try to make sense of her death while battling her own anorexic demons. At the time of her death Cassie and Lia are estranged but on Cassie’s last night she calls Lia 37 unanswered times. Lia navigates her complicated family life, Cassie’s very real ghost and her own desires to lose just 5.00 more pounds.

I believe this might be my first eating disorder centered book and it was intense at times. I really liked Anderson’s use of strikethroughs throughout the novel, it made Lia’s frame of mind very real. And how about those two blank pages?? Definitely held by breath at that point! My favorite character was Lia’s sister Emma and it was ultimately Emma that brought me tears near the end of the book. The family’s frustrations with Lia were palpable as they tried to reconcile the idea of their beloved Lia to the living skeleton of the young girl in front of them. The book had me guessing what was going to happen until the very end, a most satisfying read and a great way to kick of book club for 2014.

This past Friday Little Shop of Stories partnered with the Decatur Public Library and the Georgia Center for the Book to bring Laurie Halse Anderson to Atlanta. All I can say is – what a woman! She spoke for nearly an hour and I swear I could have listened to her speak all night long. Wintergirls was my first novel by Anderson but it will certainly not be my last; I can directly attribute that to Friday night. Anderson touched on topics ranging from her early novel Speak and her associated personal emotions to her dedication to research as she composes her historical novels (Fever 1793, Chains, Forge). She also spoke to one of the most important issues of our time: post traumatic stress disorder. She discussed how her life has been directly affected by PTSD leading to her novel The Impossible Knife of Memory. Anderson addressed the real concerns she has over a voluntary vs. draft army which really made me consider my personal feelings on the subject.

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Anderson stayed to sign books and she was such a delight to speak with! Thank you Little Shop for allowing me to meet this wonderful author!!

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February Book Club: Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen

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