review by John Chon, age 15

The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter

Summary: 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? -Goodreads

    Sometimes a novel grips you and takes you into the pages until the end. This was the case with The First Time She Drowned, by Kerry Kletter. Cassie, a young girl heading off to college after living in a mental institution for two and a half years, struggles to remember why she was there. A majority of the story is told in flashbacks, where Cassie tries to remember her childhood and the events leading up to her institutionalization. Cassie also learns how to socialize and interact with other people after leaving the hospital. Cassie finally comes to terms with her relationship with her mother, and discovers what it means to be her own unique person.
    I initially read the summary in the back of the book and thought it somewhat interesting, but figured it wouldn’t keep my attention. I read through the entire book in an afternoon and felt legitimately invested in it the entire time. The book was very detailed and gave me a sense of mystery as I read through it, always wanting to know how Cassie ended up in each situation as each bad memory resurfaced. The transitions between real life and memories did feel a bit janky at times, but overall this book did a good job handling the story. 4/5 stars.

Find this book in our catalog: The First Time She Drowned

Catalog Number: YA FIC KLETTER,K

340 pages