I'm Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy: Nonfiction Book Review
TW: abuse by a parent, eating disorders
Jennette McCurdy has everyone's attention online and off as people scramble to find available copies of her memoir I'm Glad My Mom Died. The book is flying off shelves, and the excerpts of the book that have been released to the media ahead of time have sparked days long conversations. While the online buzz is a testimonial for Jennette's unflinching honesty in telling her own story, the quick headlines about Ariana Grande, Miranda Cosgrove, and iCarly nearly do a disservice to the true magic of the book – Jennette's artistic voice.
I read this book as an audiobook since I knew Jennette would be narrating her own story. I highly recommend consuming the book this way as she truly brings it to life in a way only someone who knows the material inside and out and is a professional actress can. She has voices, comedic timing, and an authenticity in her reading that makes it truly a captivating listen.
Beyond that, I couldn't hit pause because the book is told through essentially vignettes, perfectly pulling tenants of fiction writing to express her truth beautifully. Instead of being overly sappy, reflective, or even condescending as many memoirs are, Jennette tells each chapter like it's happening in the present moment. With some nods to foreshadowing throughout, Jennette makes each chapter feel viscerally important and doesn't cut in to give her 2022 learned perspective. Instead, she lets those life lessons unfurl like they do in fiction, over the course of the narrative.
Each chapter is more like a single, isolated scene packed full of details and dialogue. Sometimes, they feel random, but each demonstrates a very particular point that might only fully make sense in hindsight. These scenes blink in and out as the chronological time moves forward taking the reader from Jennette's early childhood entering the acting world and enduring her mother's abuse into becoming a teenager and booking iCarly. Then she discusses navigating adulthood, breaking away from her family, and her first romantic relationships. She grapples with watching her mother's slow death, and once her mom is gone, she starts attempting to heal from bulimia and the trauma she endured as a child. Each snapshot is carefully drawn with an attention to sensory details and a grounding in place that makes it effortless to see playing out in one's mind.
Even though these events happened long ago for the most part, each chapter feels pressing, filling out a bit more of the world and reality. Jennette's storytelling choices are powerful and especially revealing in showing how difficult it can be to even come to the realization that abuse is taking place, even when something feels wrong. For the majority of the book, Jennette's mother is her idol, and seeing her slowly come to terms with the actuality of her experiences from understanding she never wanted to be an actress in the first place to realizing she'd been taught to have an eating disorder is powerful and heartbreaking.
Jennette is unflinching and unafraid, and she brings up a childhood passion for writing that has equated into a natural talent that's impossible to deny on the page. Few books that come from celebrity authors are so well written, and Jennette's gift shines so obviously through. Hopefully, she's working on even more projects in the book world in the future. Because, even without the headline making tidbits, the book delivers on its fundamental mission, on its storytelling format, and on clearly conveying its message in a way that can't be put down or brushed aside.
I'm Glad My Mom Died is an intense, weighty read that should be saved for the right moment, but it's well worth experiencing if you feel you have the capacity to do so.