Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

This is the story of an adolescent girl, Lia, suffering from anorexia.  Lia and Cassie had been best friends since elementary school, and each developed her own style of eating disorder that leads to disaster. Now 18, they are no longer friends. Despite their estrangement, Cassie calls Lia 33 times on the night of her death, and Lia never answers. As events play out, Lia's guilt, her need to be thin, and her fight for acceptance unravel in an almost poetic stream of consciousness in this startlingly crisp and pitch-perfect first-person narrative.

The text is rich with words still legible but crossed out, the judicious use of italics, and tiny font-size refrains reflecting her distorted internal logic. All of the usual answers of specialized treatment centers, therapy, and monitoring of weight and food fail to prevail while Lia's cleverness holds sway. This is a real, haunting book that we agreed we would caution parents to read/screen it before allowing their young adults to read it as it does broach intense heavy subject matter in a straightforward manner.

Club Rating: 4.1

The Madonnas of Echo Park by Brando Skyhorse

The Madonnas of Echo Park
Skyhorse (Mexican himself, but given his stepfather’s last name) weaves his characters—migrant farm workers, gardeners, dishwashers, bus drivers, house cleaners, gang members—in and out of his stories in various time frames. Felicia, the cleaning woman for a wealthy couple who becomes the wife’s only real friend, and Felicia’s mother, who sent Felicia away when she was four. And Efren, a bus driver whose strict adherence to the rules of the Los Angeles MTA insulates him from feeling remorse over a preventable tragedy, and his brother Juan, a gang member who escapes by joining the army. Each is trying to make a life where “everything is paid for in cash and sweat.”

Club Rating: 3.48