I’m back with another book review, I am taking my reading challenge quite seriously! This time I read The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter. I believe this one landed on my “to read list” from a Book Riot podcast, but it’s tough to remember. Warning: there are spoilers in my review.
Ok, first and foremost: this makes my the list of my favorite books of all time. This is a huge thing for me. I read a lot of books and I like a lot, so to make my favorites list is a big deal, at least to me. So get ready for an absolutely glowing review of this book.
This book is about a girl named Cassie, she is 18 and about to check herself out of a mental hospital. Her family committed her there against her will when she was 15 and she finally is getting out. She goes to college and must decide what is real from her past and how to move on with her future.
Cassie has a very toxic relationship with her mother, Bevy. This spoke to me the most in the novel. My mom is nothing like Bevy, who is selfish and bitter from wrongs from her own family. But I really connected with their relationship. I think Kletter brilliantly explored the complexities of the mother/daughter relationship.
I also think she make a statement about gender. Bevy is cruel to her daughter because her own mother preferred her sons to her daughter. Bevy does the same, she is obsessed with her son Matthew but Cassie can’t do anything right because she’s a girl. I think this makes a point that boys are praised just for being themselves-their existence but girls are held to much higher standards and still aren’t praised when they exceed these standards.
Kletter also recognizes effects on mental illness. Cassie was wrongly committed but she struggles with anxiety and depression upon release. I also struggle with anxiety and depression and I think the portrayal of it was spot on. The novel begins in a very antiquated, harsh mental institution but ends with a very empathetic therapist. Kletter accurately describes both sides of the mental health spectrum and I am so happy that she showed therapy in a positive light.
There is also a friendship theme which is quite strong. Cassie meets Zoey who really holds her afloat during this journey. She saves Cassie more than once without even knowing it and she’s a very real and refreshing character.
I can’t say enough good things about this book. It felt so raw and real to me, I was honestly surprised that it was YA. This book is so powerful-read it! Everyone should read it.