Friday, August 31, 2012

Wintergirls Book 30

“Dead girl walking,” the boys say in the halls.
“Tell us your secret,” the girls whisper, one toilet to another.
I am that girl.
I am the space between my thighs, daylight shining through.
I am the bones they want, wired on a porcelain frame.

Lia and Cassie were best friends, wintergirls frozen in matchstick bodies. But now Cassie is dead. Lia's mother is busy saving other people's lives. Her father is away on business. Her step-mother is clueless. And the voice inside Lia's head keeps telling her to remain in control, stay strong, lose more, weigh less. If she keeps on going this way—thin, thinner, thinnest—maybe she'll disappear altogether.

In her most emotionally wrenching, lyrically written book since the National Book Award finalist Speak, best-selling author Laurie Halse Anderson explores one girl's chilling descent into the all-consuming vortex of anorexia.

First of all, this is not my normal read, but this is a good book. Secondly, this is an issue book. I cannot talk about this book without talking about cultural problems that cause such issues. My opinions/beliefs on such cultural issues are not mainstream. If you are offended, I apologize in advance (for upsetting you--not for what I think).

I'm reviewing an audio book. This book is extremely well written and was read by an extremely talented voiceover actress. The actress was so good that before I could review the book, I flipped through a paperback copy to make sure there were textual changes that prompted her vocal changes. 

Leah is dying, literally. She's starving herself, because she's haunted with depression and I think to some degree anxiety. Her mother is a work-aholic. Her father spends too much time pursuing his interests (some academic, some feminine) to notice his daughter, and her step-mother is too concerned about her own daughter to get what Leah is going through. So she continues to struggle with the depression every day. She continues to eat less and as the depression gets worse even less. Stepmom almost notices and then pretends not to, because it's easier. Dad does not notice, because he doesn't want to. Mom notices, attempts to fix it, realizes she can't just take control of this situation, and goes back to work. Meanwhile, Leah continues to starve. And to some degree, they all blame Leah.

And I blame them. Her depression and eating disorder is at least in part caused by her parents divorce. Her parents got divorced, because they never really liked each other and because her father was having an affair (which now seems to be happening with stepmom). Here is where things are going to get controversial. I don't care if you never liked each other. You created a life. Suck it up and deal with it. 

Because if the divorce didn't have enough to do with Leah's problems, her dad remarries a woman with a kid very shortly after that. This woman really doesn't seem to be a bad person, but her child is her priority and Leah ranks somewhere after that. This is obvious. She magnifies her daughter's problems and views Leah's problems as less than they are. As a parent, I think to some degree this is natural. (This is why I think step-parents are rarely in a kid's best interest; it's natural for the parent's kid to come first, so the step kid is always a step kid). However, being natural doesn't help Leah. Things continuously get worse, and continually go unnoticed until Leah tries to kill herself. Her younger step sister finds her, and this is where Beth becomes really irate at Dad and Stepmom. Stepmom doesn't visit in the hospital, that's fine. If she's like me, she really doesn't care. When she gets out of the hospital, her dad takes her to stay with her mom. Because they don't want her around her younger stepsister until she gets well. I understand both sides of this. However, Leah is his child. Emma is not. While it may be acceptable for Emma's mom to protect her daughter at the cost of kicking another kid out of the house, it is not okay for Leah's dad to allow her to be kicked out of his house. I don't really even know that I think it's okay for the adults to blame her for what happened. I get that she cut herself. I also understand that she was in a spiraling depression. People cut for lots of reasons, and while you may be in control of the knife, you're generally not in control of the circumstances that lead to the knife. That's the purpose of cutting. And if you're cutting because the adults in your life have continuously put themselves first and you don't feel like they know you exist, I really don't think it's okay for them to blame you for this. Then stepmom drops Leah off at her shrink and goes off on her. "You hurt my little girl, blah, blah, blah." She doesn't even want Leah there for Christmas. Again, I understand why she would, but she shouldn't have had the chance to. First of all, I'm sorry your little girl had to see someone with their gut cut open, but I think the knife through the gut was just a little bit worse... Secondly, if you're little girl had seen someone slip and break their leg, you'd be concerned about the leg not the little girl. Why would you assume that anyone would choose to have such a serious depression? Especially, when you're part of the  cause of the depression....

You can probably guess by now that I have personal experience with cutting, depression, and stepparents. I think the adults in Leah's life were probably better than the adults in my life, and it still didn't work out for her. Eating disorders and cutting have become commonplace among teenage girls, and I think for most of them the problems start at home. We won't combat these problems until we start looking at the real issue. Ironically, after reading the acknowledgements

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