Annike: Hey everybody, today I am here with a book review on The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter. I originally began reading this book because it focused on the topic of mental health and this is what I’m studying for a personal project at school, but this book was a lot better than I had set my hopes on and I really enjoyed it!
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?
So this story focused on a girl named Cassie who started off in a mental institute. I could barely even comprehend some of the rules in this place like no touching and this had me a little sceptical to begin but from there the story really took off. Cassie is released into the world and all of a sudden thrown into the world of college which she is clearly not ready for, spending the first several days lying on her bedroom floor, sick with pneumonia. However, after this we are able to see Cassie develop into someone who may be genuinely trying to get better.
One of the really amazing things about this book was the way that Kerry Kletter was able to link up the past and the present really well and keep the story still flowing very fluently. A large chunk of the book is memories from Cassie’s past and things that Cassie has kept suppressed for such a long time but it’s great to see these things come to light and eventually relate to the present, as well as being able to piece a lot of Cassie’s life together almost with her as she discovers it for herself.
I have to say, in this story I was filled with such an undeniable hatred for Cassie’s mum and I thought that the story was so amazing that it was able to do that for me because not a lot of stories plot me against someone so hard! Cassie’s mum was just so evil I couldn’t even believe it. I hated how she was constantly prioritizing her brother and downplaying Cassie even when the adoration that Cassie had for her was so blatantly obvious. And even though she was such a harsh and hated character in my opinion, she wasn’t unrealistic either which is an example of such amazing characterisation.
I think in the story I would have liked a bit more of the present time to introduce Cassie really having time to bond with friends and form new relationships. She had 1 good friend Zoey who I liked and a crush Chris, but I thought that both relationships could have been further developed and pursued. As for her best friend in the mental hospital James, I was so disappointed that he was not included further in the storyline.
Overall, this book was a really amazing read. I learnt a real lot about mental health and I was even able to get in touch with the author to answer a few questions about mental health in YA fiction and she seemed like a really genuinely nice person. While it had it’s few flaws, the writing was absolutely beautiful and I definitely do recommend it to others out there!