The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter

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This is a heartbreaking, raw story of mental illness and how it can systematically unravel the bonds between a family. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the story, but it was so much more than a young adult coming-of-age story. Of course, there is some young romance and dating involved, but poor Cassie was forced to grow up so early in her life, and was therefore wise beyond her years. For these reasons, the plot is more mature than some young adult novels, and adults would enjoy it as much as teens.

I won’t reveal too much of the plot because you will enjoy it much more learning the story as I did – in bits and pieces of Cassie’s past as she remembers them, discovering moments that have been hidden or repressed in her own memory.

Cassie was placed in a mental institution by her mother, out of the blue, and against her will at the age of 15. She spent two and a half years there, with no support from her family and most everyone believing that she was lying. Even the therapist assigned to her, Dr. Meeks, didn’t believe her or support her. When she turns 18, she emancipates herself and leaves the institution to attend college at her mother’s alma matter. Her only regret is leaving the only true friend she has ever had, James, behind at the institution. Readers get the truth behind why Cassie was at the institution in snippets and flashbacks of her life and tumultuous relationship with her mother. At times, it is hard to read, to imagine what Cassie went through all her life. Once I read the full story of what all happened to her, when she finally revealed it to Liz, near the end, tears streamed down my face.I felt so horrible for Cassie, yet so proud of her ability to carry on and try to find herself. This is a beautiful story, and a unique look at mental illness and perception. Not everything is as it seems.

I was intrigued by the title of this book, and after reading it, I couldn’t think of a more fitting title. Drowning doesn’t always have to be in the literal sense of drowning in water. Unfortunately, as young Cassie is well aware, she spent most of her life drowning.

This is a debut novel and it packs a huge emotional punch. I’ll not be forgetting Cassie or her story any time in the near future. I hope Kletter writes many more stories. I highly recommend this book, if for nothing else but a reminder to everyone to have compassion and empathy for others.

Fans of We Were Here, Everything, Everything, and All the Bright Places will surely enjoy this novel.

I Was Here by Gayle Forman


I Was Here is a new YA book that will be published Tuesday, January 27, 2015.

I enjoyed this book, much more than Forman’s If I Stay and Where She Went books. The book brings a serious and often overlooked issue on the subject of suicide to light. I can’t spell it out because of spoiler alerts. Cody’s best friend Meg has committed suicide and planned everything out, right down to the last detail of sending emails in advance to Cody and Meg’s parents. Cody saw no warning signs and the suicide came as a complete shock. As she tries to come to grip with extreme grief and guilt for the situation, she also starts to dig and find out what really happened. In the process, she meets Meg’s housemates, who are complete strangers to her, but so much more at the end of the book. Cody’s no-nonsense, harsh perspective as a narrator is a breath of fresh air to the reader. Forman based this story on a true life story of a girl named Suzy, which she describes in more detail in the end notes. This book is really moving, and although extremely sad, it does bring out some ray of hope at the end. I would highly suggest it for adults and teens. Well done, Gayle.