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?
A bold, literary story about the fragile complexities of mothers and daughters and learning to love oneself, The First Time She Drowned reminds us that we must dive deep into our pasts if we are ever to move forward.
My Review: 5 Stars
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 and acted like best friends with Cassie's older brother, Matthew. Matthew seemed like a good brother to Cassie when he was younger, but he was turned against her by their mom and was always on the mom's side. Cassie's dad wasn't a bad guy. He wasn't able to protect her from her mother, since everyone in the family just kind of walked all over him. The extended family was bad too. Cassie's mom had her mother who was also awful to her daughter. That's probably part of why Cassie's mom became the way she was, but it doesn't excuse that. Then Cassie's mom was good friends with her aunt, who was Cassie's Great Aunt Dora. She never seemed to like Cassie when she came to visit, and there might have been something that she did to Cassie, a memory that she had managed to suppress for many years.
When Cassie leaves the mental institution that her parents put her in, she goes to college. Her college experience doesn't start off too well, thanks to a near drowning incident and a sickness that happened after that. She meets Zoey who lives across the hall from her and moves in with her. I thought Zoey was a good friend that she really needed. She was able to learn how to have fun and be herself again with Zoey.
I also thought her developing relationship with Chris was a good one. I liked how he was patient with her and stuck around, even when it seemed like she was pushing him away. But he also wasn't pushy and trying to force her to be around him.
If you like YA contemporary, read this book.