The First Time She Drowned - Kerry Kletter | ARC Review

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Pages: 352 pages Paperback ARC
Publication date: March 15, 2016
Publisher: Philomel Books
How I got the copy: Received ARC copy from publisher.
Rating:  3/5 Stars
Series: N/A

The beautiful struggle of a girl desperate for the one relationship that has caused her the most pain

Cassie O'Malley has spent the past two and a half years in a mental institution—dumped there by her mother, against her will. Now, at 18, Cassie emancipates herself, determined to start over. She attends college, forms new friendships, and even attempts to start fresh with her mother. But before long, their unhealthy relationship threatens to pull Cassie under once again. As Cassie struggles to reclaim her life, childhood memories persist and confuse, and Cassie must consider whose version of history is real, and more important, whose life she must save.

A bold, literary story about the fragile complexities of mothers and daughters and learning to love oneself, The First Time She Drowned reminds us that we must dive deep into our pasts if we are ever to move forward. 

I enjoyed the beginning of this book much more than the rest of it. I found the portrayal of 18 year-old Cassie wasn’t completely realistic or consistent but it’s written beautifully and the analogies are poetic and unique.

I read many books that cover mental illness and it’s a topic I enjoy reading but this one has a lot of minor issues throughout the entire book that doesn’t portray Cassie as a realistic teenager (She didn’t have a cellphone and no one she comes across in University fins this unrealistic or asks for her number for that matter).

All of Cassie’s former classmates seemed to be mostly stereotyped. This book depicted the entire student body as a high school stereotype. There’s a section about an incident in the cafeteria that no one reaches out to Cassie except one and everyone is watching and making fun of her… It seems ridiculous that an entire student body can’t think for themselves and each and every student fall under the peer pressures of sticking within a specific clique? Really? I found this stereotype a very tiered one.

Of course there’s also a love interest, Chris, and Cassie is horrible to him but he sticks around for a long time. I don’t know why because since both characters meet Cassie doesn’t do anything nice or appealing for, anyone to find interest in her except to notice she’s being a total bitch.

Every character Cassie has a relationship that isn’t her family seems to lack depth. She has friends but I feel there are missing explanations on why they connected.

There were so many character flaws in my opinion but I enjoyed the premise and like I mentioned before the writing is absolutely beautiful and poetic.

Trigger warnings:
Emotional abuse, sexual abuse, child abuse and suicide.

I received an ARC copy from Penguin Random House Canada in which my review reflects.

“There’s a sense of security in the mask, in the daily burial of myself beneath layer and color, concealing the girl who walked in here two and a half years ago, so exposed and rejected and easy to wound.” – ARC page 28-29

“But when she killed herself, Madeline came to life for the first time. She pointed her fingers at the world. She forced people to open their curtains and see her. To touch her skin and feel how cold she was. She bore witness to her own pain because no one else would. She exposed the secrets that created it. She exacted revenge. And everyone was sorry. Everyone was filled with regret. They loved Madeline in death as they had not loved her in life. – ARC page 185


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