WINTERGIRLS thoughts & questions for you

I’m starting to get mail asking what WINTERGIRLS is about, where the idea came from, etc. I feel weird when asked to summarize my books. It takes me around 300 pages to tell a story and I feel like an idiot when boiling that down to a paragraph or two. But I have been asked to try, so here goes.


…about being haunted by an angry ghost
…about being lost
…about feeling frozen and not having an ice pick
…about being trapped between alive and dead
…about pain that leads to self-destruction
…about the possibility of happiness

All of those concepts are filtered through the story of Lia, an 18-year-old suffering from anorexia, and her family and friends. But if you know where to look, you’ll see shadows of Persephone and Sleeping Beauty, too. It’s the darkest book I’ve ever written.

I was shocked to see there are already 53 reviews for WINTERGIRLS on Goodreads. Do any of you use Goodreads? I haven’t so far because I am the fussiest reader I know.

John Green (yes, him, PAPER TOWNS, LOOKING FOR ALASKA, etc.) has an interesting post on evaluating teens reactions to books based on its Goodread’s rating. What do you think of his argument?

The other book release that is beginning to rumble in the blogosphere and elsewhere is the 10th anniversary edition of SPEAK. Yes, it has been 10 years. No, I don’t believe it, either. But I counted on all of my fingers and it is true.

Penguin Books has put up a blog, Speak Up About Speak,”dedicated to readers, writers and authors who want to discuss the impact Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson has had on young adult literature.” Feel free to post your opinions, memories, or anything else over there.

10 years? Yeah, that’s what they tell me.

Does it make you feel old? No, it makes me think I stepped into a worm hole and got sucked through a decade of time without realizing it.

One last question and then I have to get to work. A new blog reader from India yesterday wrote in and asked how she could order one of my books. Does anyone have a suggestion? Are there any independent bookstores out there who ship overseas?


24 Replies to “WINTERGIRLS thoughts & questions for you”

  1. You’re top of my ‘next books to get’ list.

    I only know of people ordering books through things like Amazon (where you can order things from different countries) or through a very good bookshop (and some extreme kindness to the staff there!) The worst you can do is contact the publishers though and speak to them directly. They’ll be able to give all the info about where they supply books to etc. I think that all makes sense…

  2. re Goodreads:

    The only trouble I see with Green’s argument is the assumption that teens are making the bulk of the ratings. The VAST majority of my “friends” on GoodReads are librarians, teachers, authors, and bloggers. Very few teens. Sure, that may be because I’m not a teenager myself. However, I also notice that most of the reviews of my own book have been made by people who are interested in young adult lit, not young adults themselves.

  3. One more thing….

    Green considers only 4- and 5-star ratings “enjoyable” reads. Whereas most folks interpret a 3-star rating as neutral or ok, 3 stars on the Goodreads system technically means “I liked it.” For my own personal sanity, I tend to view 3-star ratings as positive (albeit not terribly enthusiastic).

  4. Not sure you can tell much from goodreads, since the most well-loved and widely read books are going to be the ones that get to the most people who don’t like them, too–it’s like on Amazon, where if all the reviews have 5 stars the book may have only been rated by a handful of folks, maybe even a handful of supportive friends–but if the book gets out widely enough, that’s when it begins to be found by those who hate it, too.

    And sometimes the books that are passionately hated are also the most passionately loved …

  5. I don’t use Goodreads… never have. Mostly because while I love the fact that teens are reading, I never need to read a review of Gossip Girl ever again. I’m a pickier reader than that.

    Btw, if you haven’t seen in (though you probably have) there’s a really nice Wintergirls review on

  6. John Green’s blog took over my thoughts yesterday…
    I am even more excited about the release of Wintergirls after your notes today on it, and I’ve got my fingers crossed for an ARC. 🙂
    And I can’t speak to Speak’s impact on YA Literature as a whole, but I definitely can say that it was the watershed point for me – it was the first YA book that I read that was worth reading!
    Congratulations on ten years’ publication of a fantastic read. 🙂

  7. I am apparently the opposite of John Green and find LibraryThing’s interface more annoying than Goodreads. I got a LibraryThing account a few years ago, added some books to it, and then forgot about it because I found the site to be frustrating. With Goodreads my only complaint is that the tags interface is sometimes slow and will inexplicably not allow me to add new tags at various stages. But I get around that by having a huge list of tags at my blog where I do my intense book reviewing (I tend to put much shorter summaries of my thoughts on Goodreads, while on my blog I’ll go very in depth on the plot and why I think I reacted in a certain way to a book).

    One thing I felt Green didn’t take into account is backlash against popular books. I bet if you looked through the one star reviews of Twilight, you’d find a lot are from people who haven’t actually read the book but are having a knee-jerk reaction to something that’s popular. Books that haven’t reached a critical mass in pop culture aren’t going to attract spiteful reviewers like that, so I bet the reviews on a book like Hunger Games, which is clearly extremely well-liked but as far as I can tell isn’t known outside of YA lit circles, are much more honest.

  8. Interesting that you say Wintergirls is the darkest book you’ve written. I find both Speak and Catalyst (two of my absolute favorite books) to be very dark (with amusing overtones, occasionally of course). I can’t wait to read Wintergirls!

  9. I just found your blog yesterday (thanks to LJ’s front page), but I was so happy to see it. Also, it’s been about seven years since I’ve read Speak in the Adolescent Lit course I was taking when I still wanted to be a high school teacher, but it is still in my head, I’ve never quite gotten over it. I’m sure you get comments like this all the time, but the 10th anniversary is certainly a great place to say it: Thank you for writing it.

  10. John Green’s argument

    The issue that I have with John Green’s argument is that it doesn’t take into account the greatest problem that I, as an English teacher, have to face every year. What about the kids who don’t read? I have many kids who would never think of going to a site and rating whether or not they liked a book because they don’t read. I need to get those kids. I am not worried about the kids who are giving a book a 3 or even a 2 as a rating because they probably read the book. Perhaps giving my kids the job of rating the literature will get them to read it. (Lesson plan brewing.)

  11. I recently finished an ARC of Wintergirls, and I think it is absolutely phenomenal. Kudos. I hope to write as well as you do someday. Practice, practice. 🙂

    Joseph Fox Book Shop in Philadelphia ships worldwide and they are a PHENOMENAL independent store. 215-563-4184 or

  12. That is a fascinating article Mr. Green has written. Not sure I agree at all, but it’s still interesting.

    Anyway, now for my agenda for even finding your blog in the first place. XD I’m taking Intro to YA Lit at my college (which is ridiculous, since I know as much as the teacher does), and my group is assigned to “teach” Speak. I was wondering if we could coerce you into doing a short (ten minutes or so) video conference with our class? If not, I totally understand, and there’s lots of other materials out there we can find to use. 🙂

  13. I use GoodReads *much to the shocks of my librarian colleagues, who all use LibraryThing, but I have my reasons*, and my only complaint is that I can’t give a book 0 stars once its marked as read. Other then that, I love it. I think using Goodreads for purchasing decisions…well, its sort of silly. I mean, unless you are going to go through and see what rating came from persons journal, since GoodReads has many adult users. If you really want to know what kids are reading, talk to librarians and bookstore folks. They know.

  14. Off-topic

    Laurie, I was just wondering if you’d seen this:
    It’s a video made by couples, family and friends against Prop 8, and there’s a petition you can sign as well.
    (I’m not affiliated with them in any way, I just thought it was something you might be interested in. The video will certainly bring a tear to your eye.)

  15. congradulations on all your successes. i love that livejournal has so many authors on here. yes, i use goodreads! i like to keep up with all the books i’ve read and plan to read. i realized that i am into nearly ten books right now. i wasn’t honest enough to put them all on my list. it is a great tool and something a lot of blogs and social site allow to feed into. i’ve got it on my blogger and on facebook! you should try goodreads, you get a better look at yourself and what you really like. think of the impression you would have if your list was someone else’s, not yours. who would you think they are, i mean what kind of person would they seem to be to you?

  16. I have a goodreads too 🙂
    In fact, I just got a copy of Wintergirls today..can’t wait to start it.
    I kinda agree w/ John Green on the Goodreads’ teen opinions on books because we, the teenagers there, aren’t dumb. WE don’t give “OMG THIS BOOK IS SO AWESOME” reviews all the time. Also, its a good way to get reviews from kids who are,what’s the word??, oh, “reluctant readers”(you know, the ones who don’t read for fun..although most of us on goodreads do read for enjoyment-ness)

  17. I can’t believe it has been 10 years since you published Speak. I went to H-H, and you came to my 11th grade class to read it to us, just after it had been published. I’ve read many of your other books, but I’ve closely followed the meteoric rise of Speak. And now – wow! I found your LJ through LJ’s spotlight, and your twitter from there. It’s very cool to be able to follow an author and be all “I knew her when!…sort of”


  18. Your book is definitely on my must-read list.
    It sounds so interesting, though I have to confess that I haven’t read “Speak”, but after googling it – I am now really looking forward to reading it too.

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