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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  • Hardcover: Mar 2009,
    288 pages.
    Paperback: Mar 2010,
    288 pages.

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Print Excerpt

Chapter One

So she tells me, the words dribbling out with the cranberry muffin crumbs, commas dunked in her coffee.

She tells me in four sentences. No, five.

I can’t let me hear this, but it’s too late. The facts sneak in and stab me. When she gets to the worst part

…body found in a motel room, alone…

…my walls go up and my doors lock. I nod like I’m listening, like we’re communicating, and she never knows the difference.

It’s not nice when girls die.

Chapter Two

“We didn’t want you hearing it at school or on the news.” Jennifer crams the last hunk of muffin into her mouth. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

I open the dishwasher and lean into the cloud of steam that floats out of it. I wish I could crawl in and curl up between a bowl and a plate. My stepmother Jennifer could lock the door, twist the dial to scald, and press on.

The steam freezes when it touches my face. “I’m fine,” I lie.

She reaches for the box of oatmeal raisin cookies on the table. “This must feel awful.” She rips off the cardboard ribbon. “Worse than awful. Can you get me a clean container?”

I take a clear plastic box and lid out of the cupboard and hand it across the island to her. “Where’s Dad?”

“He had a tenure meeting.”

“Who told you about Cassie?”

She crumbles the edges of the cookies before she puts them in the box, to make it look like she baked instead of bought. “Your mother called late last night with the news. She wants you to see Dr. Parker right away instead of waiting for your next appointment.”

“What do you think?” I ask.

“It’s a good idea,” she says. “I’ll see if she can fit you in this afternoon.”

“Don’t bother.” I pull out the top rack of the dishwasher. The glasses vibrate with little screams when I touch them. If I pick them up, they’ll shatter. “There’s no point.”

She pauses in mid-crumble. “Cassie was your best friend.”

“Not anymore. I’ll see Dr. Parker next week like I’m supposed to.”

“I guess it’s your decision. Will you promise me you’ll call your mom and talk to her about it?”

“Promise.”

Jennifer looks at the clock on the microwave and shouts, “Emma—four minutes!”

My stepsister Emma doesn’t answer. She’s in the family room, hypnotized by the television and a bowl of blue cereal.

Jennifer nibbles a cookie. “I hate to speak ill of the dead, but I’m glad you didn’t hang out with her anymore.”

I push the top rack back in and pull out the bottom. “Why?”

“Cassie was a mess. She could have taken you down with her.”

I reach for the steak knife hiding in the nest of spoons. The black handle is warm. As I pull it free, the blade slices the air, dividing the kitchen into slivers. There is Jennifer, packing store-bought cookies in a plastic tub for her daughter’s class. There is Dad’s empty chair, pretending he has no choice about these early meetings. There is the shadow of my mother, who prefers the phone because face-to-face takes too much time and usually ends in screaming.

Here stands a girl clutching a knife. There is grease on the stove, blood in the air, and angry words piled in the corners. We are trained not to see it, not to see any of it.

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

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