The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter
YA – Contemporary
Published March 15th 2016 by Philomel Books
Blah, I’ve been in such a reading rut lately. I don’t know, in summer I have all these grand plans to read and lay out and I just never have as much time slash motivation? Does this happen to anybody else? Am I just picking bad books? Anyway, I’ve been putting off writing this review for awhile now because I wasn’t sure how to form my ideas into words without making it sound like I hated this book (because I totally didn’t) just halfway through I realized it really wasn’t for me but I finished it anyway and now here I am
Cassie O’Malley was left in an asylum two years ago due to her mom being convinced she was a difficult teenager. At 18 she checks herself out and fulfills her dream of going to college, with the help of her incredibly selfish mom. What follows is her first semester on campus where she has a melt-down, meets a friend, and uncovers some hidden memories about her past with the help of a counselor.
All I can really think of is all of the 5-star reviews on goodreads and people raving about the honesty this book portrayed and I’m almost-convinced that I’m missing something. For one, I just never connected with the characters. The main character, Cassie, felt like a stereotype of how a teen’s development should be stunted from her situation. However, instead of stunting her yet still acknowledging that she probably grew up faster that she should have from her situation it was like just reading about a 13-year old girl stereotype, not an actual person. Plus everyone she came in contact with had zero development or personality. They were merely in the story to serve Cassie (which I think is fine had Cassie been more of a character) but here, it just felt like reading about non-people in what was supposed to be a hyper-real situation.
I think my biggest problem reading this, and probably what other’s didn’t have a problem with was I could just not suspend disbelief enough for this book. First off, Cassie spends around 2 years in psych-ward when she has a clean bill of health. HOW IS THIS PAID FOR?! Cassie notes several times that her family isn’t wealthy and they are merely getting by. There’s no way the insurance company is paying for this because they’re dumb and I’ve been fighting with them for three months now about a 96$ dentist bill, there is no way they’re footing the bill for this sham. Also Cassie gets her GED and is then admitted to a prestigious school where she then skips the first month and is put on academic probation, that she only hears about because they call and tell her on the communal dorm telephone. Note to every future college student, if you skip class enough in the beginning the teacher usually just drops you from it, everyone knows you have to got those first weeks(ish) then start skipping.
I think these things on there own don’t make a bad, or even okay book, but the story was just so slow moving that it gave me more time to question everything. Then for being so slow it covered an abnormally large amount of time, I’m talking about this entire girl’s life up until the present. It was a lot of telling about her life when I could have done with a tad more showing or even just more emphasis on how everything is affecting her present and we had to guess more at the big reveal. Then that “big reveal.” The payoff never felt real to me. I think that goes back to to pacing for me because it was an entire history book of this girl’s life then the last chapter was bam her big break-through and all of the aftermath. It was just so sudden that I questioned all of it.
This book had it’s good moments that I really enjoyed but they just never added up into a story I could love.
“I wonder if this is what other people seem to have that I do not—this courage to fall because they have the memory of standing.”
I liked the idea of this book, and I would recommend it to people who love “issue books,” (I definitely do at times) but this was one that just wasn’t for me.
So what did you think? Did you enjoy this book as a whole or just moments? Let me know in the comments!