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The First Time She Drowned

4.05  ·  Rating Details ·  1,982 Ratings  ·  423 Reviews
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
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published March 15th 2016 by Philomel Books
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Kelsi_Betsy It's the same publishing house for the US, Philomel Books. :)
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Community Reviews

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Raeleen Lemay
May 28, 2016 Raeleen Lemay rated it liked it
Shelves: own
The beginning of this book was SO much better than the second half, in my opinion. I found the parts in the psych ward so much more interesting than when Cass was in college... I don't really have much more to say on this, it was really quite average.
Dec 30, 2015 Emily rated it it was amazing
Sophisticated, dark, heart-breaking with bits of pure joy and light.

This is a very serious and heavy contemporary with some of THE most beautiful language I've ever read in a YA. Honestly, the Prologue alone deserves 5 stars, which is weird, since I am generally very anti-prologue.

This is a story about mental health, about self beliefs, about the tangle of an unhealthy family and the way our views of ourselves start being formed from the moment we enter the world--the way one bad thing can sta
Lala BooksandLala
this was heartbreakingly beautiful.
Jeff Zentner
Dec 30, 2015 Jeff Zentner rated it it was amazing
Earlier this year, I read Joan Didion's masterpiece, THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING. When I set that down, I resigned myself to it being a very long time before I next encountered another writer who so thoroughly held language in her thrall.

I didn't have to wait long. In fact, I found her in the very next book I read, THE FIRST TIME SHE DROWNED. This is a gorgeous, sumptuously lyrical, luminous book. I read it like it was a fire and I'd just been pulled from a frozen lake. It's a feast for lovers
Jillian (bookishandnerdy)
Heartbreakingly beautiful. Kletter's writing is haunting and extremely effective. I felt so deeply for Cassie and everything she had to go through. I loved this and it's going to stay with me for a long time. I found the toxic mother daughter relationship to be horrifying but at the same time fascinating. I highly recommend this one.
Laurie Flynn
Dec 30, 2015 Laurie Flynn rated it it was amazing
I have a great relationship with my mom. She’s not just a mom, but a friend, somebody I trust with everything, somebody I look up to. And she’s the type of mom who has always supported my choices because she wanted me to find out who I am, not define it for me. I was always told I could do anything I set my mind to, so I saw myself mirrored in that. Healthy, capable, strong, determined. Growing up, I might have taken that for granted, because not every mom is like that. Some mothers have their ...more
Shannon Parker
Dec 30, 2015 Shannon Parker rated it it was amazing
I received a copy of The First Time She Drowned in exchange for an honest review. And to be honest, no words I set down in this review can do justice to this extraordinary debut novel. Every sentence was a gift. Kletter’s rich literary style instantly made her one of my favorite authors. Her sentences are poetry, layered and thick with meaning. Each one crafted with humanity and grace. And behind this lushness of language beats a story so simultaneously heartbreaking and hopeful that my chest ...more
Heidi Heilig
Jan 04, 2016 Heidi Heilig rated it it was amazing
Sometimes it's hard to find a great expression of a book but this gif--stormy waves crashing through a girl-shaped hole in a bleak rock--is pretty much how I feel after reading this book.

THE FIRST TIME SHE DROWNED was so lovely and cruel, so beautiful and heartbreaking--difficult to read but impossible to put down. The prose is the sort that makes you ache--this is the kind of book you read more than once and keep noticing new beautiful facets and metaphors. And the ending was so, so satisfying.
Jenn Bishop
Dec 30, 2015 Jenn Bishop rated it it was amazing
Kletter's debut will suck you in with the strongest of rip tides. Her writing is evocative, fluid, and, okay, enviable (that's the writer in me!). But what sucked me in even more than that was the power of this story.

Cassie O'Malley seems to be getting a second chance at life. After two and a half years in a mental institution, she's eighteen and in control of her destiny. Or so she thinks. She elects to leave for college; her mother -- in this case her savior, but for so many years, her tormen
Amber Smith
Jan 05, 2016 Amber Smith rated it it was amazing
THE FIRST TIME SHE DROWNED is easily one of the most powerful and poignant books I've ever read on dysfunctional families and toxic relationships--heartbreaking and hopeful all at once. Told through the gorgeous, haunting voice of Cassie O'Malley, Kerry Kletter has written a deeply moving, painfully honest, and achingly beautiful story of love, loss, survival, and healing.

No words that I write could ever do this book justice--it is one that is packed with such truth and raw emotion it simply mu
Adriana Mather
Feb 06, 2016 Adriana Mather rated it it was amazing
I'm still hugging this puppy.

The most true thing I can say after reading this book is that I now trust this author can do anything and I also trust that I will be reading all of her work. She is brilliant. Her ability to capture emotions and create characters made a serious impression on me.

This book will grab you by the heart and squeeze. But it also finds humor and kindness where they are needed most. It leaves you feeling supported in the world and like you want to love yourself and others
Kali Wallace
Dec 30, 2015 Kali Wallace rated it it was amazing
THE FIRST TIME SHE DROWNED is a beautiful, heart-wrenching book about the pain of growing up in a toxic family, about growing up and learning to recognize the difference between conditional and unconditional love, about how courage, strength, and kindness can help a young woman grow away from an abusive childhood.

Cassie is such a lovely character. Her voice is strong and memorable, and I was rooting for her through all of her triumphs and setbacks, even when she was falling into old patterns tha
Ashley Blake
All the stars. All of them. This book floored me--every single page was jaw-droppingly gorgeous and authentic and heart-breaking. I can't even coherently write about this book. It's unforgettable, but one I'll have to chew on for months, maybe longer, because it's just that complex and yet so simply sad and hopeful. This is a book to remember for 2016. It's going to blow the YA world's mind.
Sarah Ahiers
Dec 30, 2015 Sarah Ahiers rated it it was amazing
THE FIRST TIME SHE DROWNED is kind of a cross between GIRL, INTERRUPTED, and FANGIRL by Rainbow Rowell. Both books I really like.
So, of course, I really liked this book!

I was lucky enough to snag an early read of this book due to an arc tour. Cassie is a girl who was sent to an asylum by her mother who tells the staff lies to get her committed. Now that she's 18 and can check herself out, Cassie heads to college, braving the real world for the first time, making friends, meeting boys and trying
Janet McNally
Feb 18, 2016 Janet McNally rated it it was amazing
This is such a beautiful book, lyrical and luminous. I knew this was true from the first few pages, which were one of the loveliest prologues I've ever read. THE FIRST TIME SHE DROWNED will break your heart, but there are so many pockets of hope and light that your heart will be put back together by the end. I loved Kerry Kletter's examination of the mother/daughter relationship at the heart of this book. It's painful and difficult to read at times, but comes out so raw and real and complex. ...more
Wendy MacKnight
Mar 22, 2016 Wendy MacKnight rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016-reads

I read this in one sitting and was gutted again and again not only by Cassie's story, but by Kerry Kletter's writing. Beautiful, poignant, and heart-wrenching, this book ably explores the scars - seen and unseen - that dysfunctional families can leave on us. We root for Cassie to overcome from page 1, and best of all, we do not see the end coming until we are there, sign of a skilled storyteller. The First Time She Drowned joins a pantheon of books about unforgettable young characters, and will
Apr 27, 2016 Evie rated it it was amazing

I first heard about this book from Jeff Zentner, the author of The Serpent King. In fact, Jeff said that THE FIRST TIME SHE DROWNED is his favorite YA book of all times. Being completely obsessed with Jeff's book myself, I knew this was a recommendation I just couldn't pass up. I immediately pre-ordered Kerry Kletter's book and started reading as soon as it arrived at my doorstep.

This was a phenomenal story, guys. So incredibly well written, harrowing and heartbreaking, I felt like I myself wa
May 04, 2016 Alexa rated it liked it
Shelves: arc
I enjoyed the beginning of this book more than the rest. I have a lot to say about this but I'll wait until my review. However, I really enjoyed the premise of the story and the writing style.

I'm predicting this book will be overhyped. You are warned.

Full review:
This book is seriously beautiful - the kind that squeezes you by the throat the whole way through. Cassie is just so sad, and lost, and lonely, but in this way that goes so far beyond misery; it's as if she couldn't possibly imagine what happiness and healthy relationships and proper functioning even look like. When a character says to her that it seems like no one has ever been nice to her in her entire life, the truth of it, and of what that kind of life would feel like, seriously stabbed me i ...more
Victoria Coe
Feb 25, 2016 Victoria Coe rated it it was amazing
Dazzling writing, compelling main character, heart-wrenching story!
Feb 10, 2016 Sonia rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
This is an incredible book. It's hard for me to even articulate all my feelings about it because I have so many. I don't think I've ever read a YA book that is as honest and real as this one is about mental illness and trauma, or that depicts with such clarity the complexities of familial relationships. Cassie's relationship with her mother is painful to read about, but I liked that the author doesn't let the reader off the hook by simplifying it. And yet the book has an undercurrent of hope ...more
Megan Holtzapple
Dec 30, 2015 Megan Holtzapple rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arcs-for-bit
If you are looking for an amazing, heartbreaking novel, The First Time She Drowned is perfect! A hauntingly beautiful tale of new experiences and broken relationships, The First Time She Drowned is a must-read for all teens. Kletter’s first novel is stellar, powerful, and relatable for everyone hiding from the world. After being locked in a mental hospital for four years against her will, Cassie is ready to escape. Kerry Kletter weaves a tale of self-acceptance and misconceptions. This novel ...more
Melissa Gorzelanczyk
Mar 28, 2016 Melissa Gorzelanczyk rated it it was amazing

My God.

This book.

I would say I loved every word, every line, because I did--but then I start thinking about the first line:

My mother wore the sun like a hat.

And the last line:

No spoiler, but you have to read it, I love it so much!

And I can't get over how amazingly brilliant these two lines are...

... and then there are all the words in between and you're drowning in the brilliance, being washed over, being sucked in.
Kristy Acevedo
Dec 30, 2015 Kristy Acevedo rated it it was amazing
The First Time She Drowned is a heart-wrenching, powerful story about a mother-daughter dysfunctional relationship. Sad and hopeful with great language and insight.

*I received a free ARC copy. I did not receive any compensation for this review.

Susane Colasanti
Jun 26, 2016 Susane Colasanti rated it it was amazing
Beautiful. Powerful. Wonderful. The First Time She Drowned is filled with so many amazing things you will be dazzled by its lyrical charms. A breathtaking debut!
Kathleen Glasgow
Feb 19, 2016 Kathleen Glasgow rated it it was amazing
It's taken me quite a bit of time to compose myself regarding this book. The density and beauty of the prose, the complexity and craftmanship of the story, absolutely floored me. THE FIRST TIME SHE DROWNED is not going to be like any book you'll read this year, or the next, or the next. It's going to be a book that you will reread for the pleasures of its language and the scope of its plot. Cassie's relationship with her mother is at once toxic and gothic. Her mother's stranglehold on Cassie is ...more
This was a powerful and dark book that wasn't necessarily an easy read, but was definitely a very good read. It dealt with familial relationships and about learning to navigate the world again after being put into a mental institution by your own family when they don't really have your best interests in mine.

The story of Cassie's family was a sad and painful one. Cassie's mom was abusive to her, not physically, but verbally. She made Cassie feel like she wasn't worth anything while she doted on
Bookworm LLC
Mar 24, 2016 Bookworm LLC rated it it was amazing
Shelves: cindy-bookshelf
WOW!!! The First Time She Drowned will reel you in from the very first page. Such a powerful novel on a family that is very dysfunctional and the affects it has on the children.

All Cassie wants is her mother's love. From a very young age she tries to get her mother to see her and to love her but to no avail. She doesn't understand why her oldest brother is his mother's "favorite". As Cassie gets older her mom decides she is a trouble maker and commits her to a mental hospital. Cassie is rebelli
Jennifer White
Aug 16, 2016 Jennifer White rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This was a great, but very emotional read. It made me go through so many emotions. I identified very much with a lot of Cassie's feelings.

Cassie is 18 and has been in a mental institution the last 2.5 years. Cassie did not belong in the institution. She was put there by her very sick mother. Cassie has had to endure mental, verbal and at times physical abuse by her mother. They have a highly dysfunctional relationship. She also had to endure sexual abuse by another relative.

She has struggled wit
Jan 19, 2016 Stacee rated it liked it
This started out really strong for me and then I don't know what happened.

I like Cassie well enough. Her story is a rough one and it's obvious that she doesn't know how to interact with people properly. There are some interesting secondary characters {namely BFF Zoey} and just don't get me started on her mother.

The prose is gorgeous. It's lyrical and flows like the ocean Cassie constantly talks about. The chapters alternate between past and present and it's a clever way to get the whole story
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Surprise Smarty P...: Discussion 1 10 Jul 28, 2016 12:26AM  
Crazy for Young A...: The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter → Start Date: June 2nd, 2016 38 47 Jun 13, 2016 01:19AM  
Goodreads Librari...: Accurate Cover 5 43 Jul 25, 2015 07:50PM  
families 1 22 Nov 21, 2014 02:24PM  
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Author of The First Time She Drowned (Penguin-Randomhouse.)
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“It was when I discovered that there are two kinds of death. There is ceasing to exist, usually accompanied by a funeral and loved ones in mourning. And then there is emotional death born out of necessity and measured solely by the absence of grief it causes: the turning off the lights of oneself in order to shut down the feelings of being alive.” 12 likes
“That's the weirdest thing about being cut off from life. Everything gets washed out or muted or recedes into the background except for other people's laughter. Other people's laughter gets very loud and jarring. It penetrates. It is a reminder that other people live.” 9 likes
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