The Dragon Whistler

The Dragon Whistler
Now available in paperback.


Chains and Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

How I have never read a Laurie Halse Anderson book before is beyond me. There are just too many good YA authors out there and not enough time to read ‘em all.

These last few weeks, I discovered that LHA is one of those rare authors who transcends the genre pigeon hole, dipping her pen into both YA and historical children’s fiction.
Example #1: Chains (S&S Children's, 2008), an amazing glimpse into the lives of slave children around the time of the Revolutionary War.

The research required to bring a story like this to life is mind-boggling. Anderson tells the story of Isabel and Ruth, two sisters sold to a cruel, wealthy Loyalist couple in New York City during the American Revolution. The history of America’s fight for freedom is a disturbing yet intriguing backdrop for Isabel’s determined fight for her own freedom. The characters are heartbreaking and real, the setting beautifully set.
For readers 6th grade and up, Chains delivers a historic lesson on many levels.

Example #2: the flip side is Wintergirls (Penguin Books for Young Readers, 2009) – an even more intense story, dealing with eating disorders.

18-year-old Lia and her best friend Cassie have had a falling out, but when Cassie turns up dead and alone in a hotel room, Lia fears she knows why. But what she believes is only a tip of the iceberg.

The first-person narrative makes this poignant and sometimes unbelievable story wickedly sharp. As a parent, it’s terrifying to observe how easily the eating disorder can take root in a young girl, and the parallel lines of need: for acceptance and to be the thinnest possible. I wonder what teenage girls think on reading this… for those who are living with eating disorders, I would imagine this would be a tough (but hopefully inspiring) read.

Lia’s obsession with numbers (from the calories in each food item to the numbers on the scale), and poetic description of her inner turmoil are gruesome. She struggles to come to terms with the ghost of Cassie, her guilt and the part she plays in the drama, and her relationships with her family.

Definitely more of a teen book, Wintergirls is a peek behind the curtain of an issue that probably doesn’t get enough of a hard look, and that parents of many teenagers sadly are in denial about.

Both books earn 4 bookmarks on my scale, and put Ms. Anderson on my list of authors to continue reading. Fever 1793, Speak, and Twisted are now in my “to be read” pile.

Have you read either of these books? I’d love for you to weigh in on how you felt after reading about these emotional yet very different stories.


Natalie Aguirre said...

Thanks for the review. I saw Laurie Halse Anderson at a SCBWI conference. She's a great speaker as well as writer.

Kimberly J. Smith said...

Natalie, I've heard that about her. I hope I get the opportunity to hear her speak sometime. Thanks for commenting!