Reading Guide Questions
Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
Read the two epigraphs printed at the front of the book. How
do you think each relates to Lia and her situation?
What do the crossed-out words and phrases reveal about Lia?
Why can't she allow herself to say or think some things? What is she afraid
will happen if she does?
Define "wintergirl." In what ways are Lia and Cassie frozen?
Discuss the symbolism of winter and cold found throughout the story and the
role it plays in building the main themes of the novel.
Does Lia want to lose weight so she will look thin and
pretty? What does her thinness mean to her? How does she think it gives her
Does Cassie's death trigger Lia's restrictive eating
patterns to reemerge? Why or why not?
"Empty" becomes synonymous with "strong" for Lia throughout
most of the story. How does Lia justify this comparison? Do her feelings
Lia repeats the phrase "When I was a real girl . . . " If
she's not real now, what is she? When did she stop being real? Will she ever
be real again?
The night Cassie dies, why does she call Lia? Would it have
made a difference if Lia had answered? Why or why not? Could anything have
In the newspaper article about Cassie's death, the
superintendent of schools says, "Most teens today struggle with something."
Do you agree? Explain your opinion.
What is friendship? Describe the important elements of Lia
and Cassie's relationship. Are they really friends?
Describe Lia's relationships with her mother, father,
Jennifer, and Emma. How is Lia different with each of them? What do they
each contribute to her situation?How do they each influence her?
Lia is particular about the names she calls her family
members (i.e. "Jennifer" instead of Stepmother, "Dr. Marrigan" instead of
Mom, "Professor Overbrook" instead of Dad). What does this reveal about what
Lia thinks of her family members?
Discuss the line: "I pretend to be a fat, healthy teenager.
They pretend to be my parents." What does this line expose about Lia's
feelings for her parents? What does Lia's frequent use of the word "pretend"
throughout the book tell you about the way she views others? Why does Lia
feel she and others must pretend?
What does Lia think makes her strong? What do you think of
as Lia's strengths? Would Lia agree with you? How does Lia's perception of
strength change toward the end of the story?
What do we learn from Cassie's ghost? Does her presence help
or hinder Lia on her path to recovery? What does Cassie's ghost come to
symbolize by the end of the novel?
Discuss Lia's relationship with Elijah. When she first meets
him and lies about her identity, why do you think she chooses to give her
stepsister's name as her own? What is Elijah able to give Lia that the other
people in her life cannot? What do you think about the way their
What role does Lia's knitting play in the novel? What does
it come to symbolize?
Elijah calls himself "a wanderer in search of truth." Does
he find truth by the end of the story? Does Lia? Are any of the other
characters able to do so? Explain.
Lia's mother tells her: "Cassie had everything: a family who
loved her, friends, activities. Her mother wants to know why she threw it
all away." According to Lia, asking "why" Cassie died is the wrong
question. She says to ask "why not." What do you think she means by this?
Which do you think is the right question to ask? Is there an answer to
Why do you think Lia and Cassie took their eighth grade New
Year's resolutions so seriously? How do these promises play into the rest of
Lia's dad says to her: "I wish I understood what goes on
inside you . . . why you're so afraid." Is fear part of Lia's problem? What
is she afraid of?
What is Lia using her thinness to communicate to her
parents? What is her body saying that her voice cannot?
Why do you think Lia finally opens up to Dr. Parker? What do
you think of what she chooses to tell her? How does the conversation change
Dr. Parker tells Lia: "In one aspect, yes, I believe in
ghosts, but we create them." Do you agree with her? How much of what happens
to Lia is a result of her own doing? How much of it is caused by others?
What does the "seeglass" mean to Lia? What does she think
she needs it for? Does this end up being true?
What ultimately changes for Lia by the end of the story? Why
does she survive when Cassie didn't?
Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Puffin.
Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.