Our Take: 5/5 Stars
With a title as punchy as “I’m Glad My Mom Died” and a story as momentous as Jennette McCurdy’s, it is no surprise that McCurdy’s debut memoir made a splash on the charts and was met with acclaim from critics and the general public alike. Chronicling her life from her first acting roles to her journey through eating disorder recovery to making peace with her mother’s death, McCurdy manages to make readers laugh at the absurdity of moments in her life, mourn her loss of a normal childhood and celebrate all she has managed to do despite the challenges thrown her way.
In 320 pages, McCurdy does not let a single one go to waste. The book jumps right into the story as it opens on McCurdy visiting her mother in the ICU, where she is in a coma. Everyone in her family goes into the room to speak with her, trying to tell her big news to maybe wake her up. Her brothers talk about marriage, careers and moving. McCurdy tells her mom that she has finally hit eighty-nine pounds.
With that, the reader is thrown right into the central story of the memoir: McCurdy’s struggle to separate herself from the overbearing manipulation of her mother. We follow along as McCurdy, at the age of six, is pushed into acting classes and auditions she hates in order to live out her mother’s Hollywood dreams. We watch as her mother actively encourages her daughter — not even a teenager yet — to develop an eating disorder. We cannot help but feel McCurdy’s complex feelings toward her mother as she consistently grapples with the fact that she would do anything to make her mom happy, but what will it cost her and when will it end?
Throughout the book, there is a deep-seated air of grief, but it is not really in the ways you would imagine a book about her mother’s death may have. Rather, as we see every step in McCurdy’s life, we watch as McCurdy wonders out loud what may have happened if she had lived her life the way she had wanted to. What if she had stood up to her mother? What if her mother could have changed? What if she had never been cast in “iCarly”?
However, McCurdy never lets herself drown in these what-if moments. Instead, she continues to pull the readers back to the fact that what has happened has happened, and even with all this strife, she has still managed to succeed. She has managed to go down the path of recovery virtually by herself, get out of unhealthy relationships and publish a massively successful book chronicling it all.
As McCurdy recounts some of the absolute lowest points of her life, you feel like you are there with her and all you want to do is just reach out and hug her, and tell her everything will be okay. We watch as she picks herself up and falls — over and over again — but as we hold the book in our hands, we also hold physical proof that she is okay and that she made it.
Without a doubt, “I’m Glad My Mom Died” is a five-star read. Unflinchingly heart wrenching and darkly funny, McCurdy has truly managed to take back her own story, once and for all.