Like Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson's Wintergirls is an "issue" novel, but in this case the issue is body image, and the eating disorders and self-mutilation that too frequently accompany it. Lia, our first-person narrator, is a (possibly) recovering anorexic whose former best friend, the bulimic Cassie, dies horribly alone. Although they hadn't been speaking for months prior, Cassie leaves Lia 33 messages on her cell phone during the course of her last night, and Lia is wracked by guilt--quite literally haunted by Cassie--because she didn't pick up. Whatever marginal progress she might have been making by moving into her father's house and learning to care for her younger half-sister is steadily eroded as Lia spirals farther and farther out of control, until she is forced to decide once and for all if she really wants to remain among the living. While I didn't really like the typographical choices Anderson used to convey Lia's underlying thoughts (strikethrough text, smaller font sizes and right justification, and italics beginning and ending a flashback, blank pages [shades of New Moon]), there are few books that I have read with a near-permanent wince and frequent--especially toward the end--verbal exclamations of "oh, no!" This was largely due to the way Lia's barren interior landscape forcefully engendered my own depression and misery. The pressure Lia is operating under feels disturbingly real and life-threatening. The scenes between Lia and her parents were among the most powerful, while those where the reader is lost in the wilderness of Lia's mind occasionally felt swamped in metaphor. Wintergirls also feels a little bit like what it is: an adult's attempt to capture the inner life of a teenager struggling through something it is difficult for many adults to fully understand. She admits in this interview, that the "issue" yielded the character, rather than the reverse. And that's OK, Anderson should absolutely respond to the needs and stories of her letter-writing fans, but the book loses something undefinable and organic as a result of its constructed nature. However, Anderson clearly did her research about anorexia and cutting, hitting every point she could, and candid discussion of these issues is certainly welcome. Overall, I think Speak is probably a stronger book, but Wintergirls could play a similar role, educating readers about eating disorders.