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The First Time She Drowned

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  6,215 ratings  ·  1,007 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 It's the same publishing house for the US, Philomel Books. :)…moreIt's the same publishing house for the US, Philomel Books. :)(less)
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Average rating 3.97  · 
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 ·  6,215 ratings  ·  1,007 reviews

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Jun 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
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There are certain things children need from their mothers-things that we are all entitled too from birth. Some of these include sense of safety, trust, being nurtured and feeling as though we belong. Most of all, as children, we need someone to love us and someone for us to love back. This is something Cassie was denied when she was a young child and she couldn't seem to figure out how to obtain it. Instead, she questioned herself and su
L A i N E Y ~back in a bit~
You know how some people become 'estranged'? Yeah.

This 'mother' woman is one hell of a walking, talking trigger warning I tell you.

What a lowest of low life form of a gigantically horrendous nasissistic mother of a human race.

I'm not even sure we should categorize her as a 'human being'. There's no compassion, no thoughts for others, at all, even for your own flesh and blood. Just nothing. Her one true happiness in life was to make her own daughter's life a living hell.

And she effing succeed
Lala BooksandLala
this was heartbreakingly beautiful.
Aug 24, 2015 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
Jeff Zentner
Jan 15, 2015 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
Laurie Flynn
Aug 13, 2015 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 o ...more
Jul 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
S.M. Parker
Sep 04, 2015 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 fe ...more
Aj the Ravenous Reader
Beautifully written with impressive emotional depth. The story flawlessly shifts from the present to past, a current experience that would trigger a flashback of a sad memory. Cassie's narrative is one you would truly empathize with.

It's so sad, a sadness so palpable, I wish I could save her from such a terrible upbringing. I wanted to slap her mother senseless to instill some sense and heart in her. I wanted to shake her father out of his inaction and indifference. This is how evocative the sto
Amber Smith
May 22, 2015 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
Kylie Amber
Jul 21, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-read
More like 2.5 stars but this was an extremely slow read for me. I had a rage amount of hatred for Cassie’s mother that made it an unpleasant read for me. Sorry Alexa ):
Jenn Bishop
Jul 22, 2015 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
Kali Wallace
Jan 17, 2015 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
Adriana Mather
Jun 03, 2015 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
Apr 27, 2016 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
Ashley Blake
Jun 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: young-adult
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. ...more
Sarah Ahiers
Aug 03, 2015 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
Wendy MacKnight
Mar 21, 2016 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
Gina *loves sunshine*
May 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017, audiobook
This read really hits you - it's a book you enjoy because the characters make you feel so many crazy emotions!!! The mother made me want to stick a fork in my eye. (why do people say that?!?) Maybe instead it's me running around with a fork chasing that Mother, yelling - just stop already!! Stop making life all about you. Stop ruining everyone!

The writing is delicious - you really take in everything. I definitely felt all of what Cassie was going through and how she was reacting to everyone. An
Feb 09, 2016 rated it liked it
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 over hyped. You are warned.

I enjoyed the beginning of this book much more than the rest of it. I found the portrayal of 18 year-old Cassie wasn’t completely realistic or consistent but it’s written beautifully and the analogies are poetic and unique.

I read many books that c
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
Kathleen Glasgow
Aug 15, 2015 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
Janet McNally
Feb 18, 2016 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. Cas ...more
Eve Messenger
Jan 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ya-contemporary
THE FIRST TIME SHE DROWNED is a brilliant debut novel. The gorgeous writing, storytelling of such truth and clarity, and brilliantly structured plot filled with suspense kept me reading late into the night. But be warned: this protagonist experiences real cruelty, the kind of cruelty that may be devastatingly familiar to you, the kind that may cause you—like I am now—to have to process the feelings it evokes. The thing is, THE FIRST TIME SHE DROWNED isn’t exploitative. It doesn’t exist to aggrav ...more
This book is both infuriating and uplifting...

⇝Ratings Breakdown⇜

Plot: 4.5/5
Main Characters: 4/5
Secondary Characters: 4/5
The Feels: 5/5
Addictiveness: 4/5
Theme or Tone: 4.2/5
Flow (Writing Style): 4.2/5
Backdrop (World Building): 4/5
Book Cover: 5/5
Narration: 4.5/5
Ending: 5/5 Cliffhanger: Nope
Total: 4.3/5 STARS

⇝My Thoughts⇜

I've been reading this type of book a lot lately and I have say that this one has a completely different feel to it, not bad, just different. The narrator, Cassie, is very sub
Oct 20, 2015 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 eve ...more
Melissa Gorzelanczyk
Jan 15, 2016 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.
Bridget Hodder
Apr 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Review to come. In the meantime, just know that this book will tug at you as insistently and inexorably as the tide, and when you finally reach shore again, everything will look and feel different...but it's YOU who have changed. ...more
Kristy Acevedo
Dec 19, 2015 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.

Victoria Coe
Nov 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Dazzling writing, compelling main character, heart-wrenching story!
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Goodreads Librari...: Page count correction - The First Time She Drowned 3 13 Sep 08, 2018 07:01PM  
Surprise Smarty P...: Discussion 1 25 Jul 27, 2016 03:26PM  
Crazy for Young A...: The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter → Start Date: June 2nd, 2016 38 65 Jun 12, 2016 04:19PM  
Goodreads Librari...: Accurate Cover 5 51 Jul 25, 2015 10:50AM  
families 1 33 Nov 21, 2014 05:24AM  

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