BOOK REVIEW: “The First Time She Drowned” by Kerry Kletter

Title: The First Time She Drowned
Author: Kerry Kletter
Publication: March 15, 2016
Publisher: Philomel Books
Genre: Teen, YA Fiction
Pages: 352

The First Time She Drowned


SYNOPSIS: (From Goodreads)

Cassie O’Malley has been trying to keep her head above water—literally and metaphorically—since birth. It’s been two and a half years since Cassie’s mother dumped her in a mental institution against her will, and now, at eighteen, Cassie is finally able to reclaim her life and enter the world on her own terms.

But freedom is a poor match against a lifetime of psychological damage. As Cassie plumbs the depths of her new surroundings, the startling truths she uncovers about her own family narrative make it impossible to cut the tethers of a tumultuous past. And when the unhealthy mother-daughter relationship that defined Cassie’s childhood and adolescence threatens to pull her under once again, Cassie must decide: whose version of history is real? And more important, whose life must she 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.


My daughter gave me The First Time She Drowned because she thought it was a story I might like. After I finished reading it, I gave it back to her and asked, “Am I supposed to be the mother in this book?” She replied, “No, you’re the daughter.” I could have cried. The First Time She Drowned is my life story–minus a few major details. I’ve never been in a psychiatric facility–among other things. However, I did–and still do–have a complicated relationship with my mother and this book hit home on more than one occasion. I related to Cassie O’Malley; she is my soul sister.

From page one, The First Time She Drowned captivated me. The author, Kerry Kletter, does a fabulous job of not giving away all her secrets. Yet, she keeps you turning the pages to discover what lies beneath. She does not sacrifice plot or character for fancy wording or complex sentences. The story flowed from page to page with ease. You felt Cassie’s pain and inner turmoil; at the same time, you felt the confusion and steadfastness of the supporting characters who love Cassie despite her scars. Her roommate, Zoey, is outgoing and bubbly–the perfect antidote to Cassie’s introverted personality and hard heart. Chris, the boy who tries to break down Cassie’s walls, is not the perfect dream guy, yet you can’t help but cheer for him.

Kerry Kletter does a wonderful job of weaving the past and present together without making the reader feel like they have whiplash. You can easily see the breakdown of Cassie’s relationship with her mother–and with herself. Readers will either be able to relate to this story or they’ll feel grateful for the solid relationship they have with their own mothers. I cannot recommend this book enough. I give it 5 out of 5 stars!

See if you enjoy it just as much by picking up your own copy on Amazon or Barnes and Noble now. Also add this book to your To Reads list on Goodreads and make sure to leave your feedback for the author when you are done. Also check out author Kerry Kletter on her author page here!

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