The First Time She Drowned

Kerry Kletter. Philomel, $17.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-399-17103-1
Kletter’s emotionally devastating first novel portrays life under a domineering and narcissistic mother. Placed in a psychiatric hospital at age 15 by her family, Cassie O’Malley is terrified to leave her comfortable routine and friends when she signs herself out at 18 to begin college. Unable to cope with the expectations of college life, Cassie retreats further into herself, risking her chance for a fresh start until new friend Zoey and love interest Chris encourage her to socialize. When she begins seeing Liz, the school counselor, Cassie’s flashbacks point to a manipulative mother, absent father, and siblings caught in the middle of their mother’s battles for affection and control. Kletter frames wrenching moments between mother and daughter and troubling references to suicide with the murky outlines of Cassie’s childhood memories, suggesting how easily one’s life can spiral out of control when abuse is involved. When more disturbing memories surface, Cassie must decide whether to retreat into her mother’s destructive realm or embrace her friends and trust that she is lovable. A complex novel that ultimately uplifts. Ages 14–up. Agent: Catherine Drayton, Inkwell Management. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 12/21/2015
Release date: 03/15/2016
Genre: Children's
Compact Disc - 978-0-399-56791-9
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-0-14-751327-4
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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