Excerpt from Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Wintergirls

By Laurie Halse Anderson

Wintergirls

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I wait.

This is where we should hug or kiss or pretend to.

She ties the belt around her middle. “Look…just keep moving today. Okay? Try not to think about things too much.”

“Right.”

“Say good-bye to your sister, Emma,” Jennifer prompts.

“Bye, Lia.” Emma waves and gives me a small berridazzle smile. “The cereal is really good. You can finish the box if you want.”

Chapter Three

I pour too much cereal (150) in the bowl, splash on the two-percent milk (125). Breakfast is themostimportantmealoftheday. Breakfast will make me a cham-pee-on.

…When I was a real girl, with two parents and one house and no blades flashing, breakfast was granola topped with fresh strawberries, always eaten while reading a book propped up on the fruit bowl. At Cassie’s house we’d eat waffles with thin syrup that came from maple trees, not the fake corn syrup stuff, and we’d read the funny pages…No. I can’t go there. I won’t think. I won’t look. I won’t pollute my insides with Bluberridazzlepops or muffins or scritchscratchy shards of toast, either. Yesterday’s dirt and mistakes have moved through me. I am shiny and pink inside, clean. Empty is good. Empty is strong.

But I have to drive

…I drove last year, windows down, music cranked,
first Saturday in October, flying to the SATs. I drove so
Cassie could put the top coat on her nails. We were secret sisters with a plan for world domination, potential bubbling around us like champagne. Cassie laughed. I laughed. We were perfection.

Did I eat breakfast? Of course not. Did I eat dinner the night before, or lunch, or anything?

The car in front of us braked as the traffic light turned yellow, then red. My flip-flop hovered above the pedal. My edges blurred. Black squiggle tingles curled up my spine and wrapped around my eyes like a silk scarf. The car in front of us disappeared. The steering wheel, the dashboard, vanished. There was no Cassie, no traffic light. How was I supposed to stop this thing?

Cassie screamed in slow motion.

::Marshmallow/air/explosion/bag::

When I woke up, the emt-person and a cop were frowning. The driver whose car I smashed into was screaming into his cell phone.

My blood pressure was that of a cold snake. My heart was tired. My lungs wanted a nap. They stuck me with a needle, inflated me like a state-fair balloon, and shipped me off to a hospital with steel-eyed nurses who wrote down every bad number. In pen. Busted me.

Mom and Dad rushed in, side by side for a change, happy that I was not dead. A nurse handed my chart to my mother. She read through it and explained the disaster to my father and then they fought, a mudslide of an argument that spewed across the antiseptic sheets and out into the hall. I was stressed/overscheduled/manic/no—depressed/no—in need of attention/no—in need of discipline/in need of rest/in need/your fault/your fault/ fault/fault. They branded their war on this tiny skin-bag of a girl.

Phone calls were made. My parents force-marched me into hell on the hill New Seasons…

Cassie escaped, as usual. Not a scratch. Insurance more than covered the damage, so she wound up with a fixed car and new speakers. Our mothers had a little talk, but really all girls go through these things and what are you going to do? Cassie rescheduled for the next test and got her nails done at a salon, Enchanted Blue, while they locked me up and dripped sugar water into my empty veins…

Lesson learned. Driving requires fuel.

Not Emma’s Bluberridazzlepop cereal. I shiver and pour most of the soggy mess down the disposal, then set the bowl on the floor. Emma’s cats, Kora and Pluto, pad across the kitchen and stick their heads in the bowl. I draw a cartoon face with a big tongue on a sticky note, write yummy, emma! thanks! and slap it on the cereal box.

Excerpted from WINTERGIRLS © Copyright 2009 by Laurie Halse Anderson. Reprinted with permission by Viking Juvenile. All rights reserved.

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