- 320 pages
- Celebrity Memoir
- Mental Health, Trauma, Eating Disorder(s)
- Goodreads Choice Award Winner 2022
If you haven’t heard of Jennette McCurdy, you’re not living under a rock–maybe you just haven’t watched a lot of Nickelodeon. McCurdy was a popular child star in the show, iCarly, and then later starring in Sam and Cat, and the Netflix series, Between. Her hilarious and heart-breaking memoir, I’m Glad My Mom Died, begins at the age of six, when she was sent to her first acting audition. Her mom, in an effort to live out her own childhood dreams, pushed Jennette into the career, hoping that she would be a star–and not taking no for an answer. And, what six-year-old wouldn’t do whatever they could to make their parent happy?
Jennette’s childhood was complicated, filled with calorie restriction, riddled with eating disorders, and clouded with abuse–though she didn’t recognize any of this until she was much older. In I’m Glad My Mom Died, McCurdy recounts memories of her mother, both positive and negative, and how these experiences have shaped her in adulthood. Filled with anecdotes while on the road to recovery, McCurdy’s book is riveting, and entertaining, to say the least.
Oof. Where to start with this one.
As many of you know, I work at a library, which means that I often get the deets on what’s new and trending because I watch patrons checking things out. Literally.
I’m Glad My Mom Died was flying off our shelves this past fall and continued to be checked out all the way up until I finally saw it on the shelf and decided to try it out. I certainly didn’t think this was going to be a book for me. Though I’ve enjoyed memoir in the past, I’ve never been fond of a celebrity memoir and I haven’t had any connection to McCurdy or Nickelodeon.
And, perhaps that’s why I loved it.
Let me start off by saying that McCurdy doesn’t have a writing background. She’s not a particularly strong writer, but she’s an excellent storyteller. Her phrases are often juvenile and immature at times, though I think this works for this particular book, especially because it starts so early on in the story. I think McCurdy’s style and tone threw me a bit in the very beginning, but I adjusted quickly and I believe it really does appeal to the general population of readers…so it works here.
That being said, as much as I loved the anecdotes that took place throughout the book (and we certainly needed to see where her story started), I’m not sure if I loved how the book started. I feel like it’s hard for any of us to remember what we were like at six years old, let alone recreate our voice from that time. She probably wrote the book this way for continuity in later chapters but it just felt…weird.
I also felt like there were a lot of missed scenes where one chapter would skip over big pieces of time before the next little story. This happened especially towards the middle and ending of the book. For example, she mentions her grandmother often when she lived at home, but then she mentions her grandmother in the past toward the end of the book. I don’t remember reading that her grandmother died–I could have totally missed that detail, but I felt like there were a lot of little pieces like this. Okay, sure–I realize it’s impossible to get the entire gist of someone’s life in 300 and some pages, but I think the structure of the narrative contributed to some of the challenges with reader comprehension (or whatever was missing in the details) here.
The one thing, like many others, that I was absolutely astounded by was McCurdy’s sense of normalcy by the way her family acted and how she was treated as a child. As she began to understand that other families didn’t behave the ways hers did, her depression worsened and caused a slew of very real health problems, which she depicts in a raw, candid manner that will touch even the most unaffecting readers.
I think the thing that stuck with me, at the end of this, is that Jennette still wanted to make her mom happy–even knowing the abuse that her mom put her through; hell, she struggled to even call it abuse. She quit a therapist just for saying that her mother might be abuse, even knowing the truth, herself. Jennette’s love and commitment to her mom, despite their emotional turmoil, is something that I think many mothers/daughters struggle with, and while harsh, I think the title of I’m Glad My Mom Died doesn’t necessarily negate that love, but instead focuses on Jennette’s ability to now take care of herself in the absence of her mother.
I enjoyed this book immensely and I flew through it in 48 hours. Regardless of whether you’re a reader (or not), I think there is a lot to be learned here–plus, it’s entertaining. There are some funny moments in this book, but it’s also gut-wrenching and real, and filled with the grief that so many of us have felt when losing a family member with a complicated relationship to us. I’d recommend picking this one up.
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