Is it possible to think that a book is both extraordinarily profound and trite? Told in alternating chapters of present day and the past, you slowly learn why Cassie was left by her parents at the mental institution and why she chooses to leave it the minute she turns eighteen. It’s an onion of a story (I do love onions), slowly revealing the truth about everything (and making you cry sometimes, too. Oh, onions.).
On the one hand, it was so real in its wretchedness, the lack of love that the main character, Cassie, suffers through her entire life. You see that her mother, Bevy, is the daughter of horrible parents herself, so it doesn’t take a licensed therapist to see that is exactly why Bevy herself is so self-centered, wanting all of the love, wanting everything to be perfect, which, of course, things never are.
Even the smallest glimpse into this dysfunctional family tree will make you understand why Cassie feels invisible. Her older brother is the golden child, just like her Uncle Paul is to his parents. Both families have three children (eventually, in one case); both are boy/girl/boy. And, in both cases, the girl is completely skipped over in favor of the boys.
When in the depths, the author sprinkled delicious phrases like bread crumbs. The very first paragraph contained this:
She carried her beauty with the naiveté of someone who was born to it and thus never understood its value or the poverty of ugliness.
On the other hand, parts of the story alternate between being glossed over (if she’s been in a mental institution for 2-1/2 years, how did she get her high school diploma?) or over-the-top dramatic (she get pneumonia and stays in bed for several weeks before seeing a doctor [or speaking to anyone, for that matter].) Would someone check out and take a bus immediately to college? I guess it could happen, but I dunno. Plus, how did she pay for anything? I know her tuition was being paid by her mother, but what about food? Shopping? All the makeup she wears?
I understand that abused people make excuses for their abusers, a girl wants a mother, it’s easier to keep everything bottled up inside, it may be hard to trust people, it’s hard to break the cycle. Cassie’s relationship with her family felt very real, but this deep psychological look into an abhorrent family sometimes spins off into something less profound and more typical of YA/NA themes. The relationship Cassie has with her college roommate and the boy who develops an interest in Cassie doesn’t have the depth that the story deserves. While I understand they were there to show Cassie that she was likeable, to push her along the path to recovery, and to make a big reveal, I didn’t see why either of these people would be attracted to Cassie in the first place.
The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter was published Match 15, 2016 by Philomel Books. Ink and Page picked this book up from the library for review.
Genre: Young Adult New Adult Realistic Fiction Contemporary Romance