I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy

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A heartbreaking and hilarious memoir by Jennette McCurdy about her struggles as a former child actor—including eating disorders, addiction, and a complicated relationship with her overbearing mother—and how she retook control of her life. 

Jennette McCurdy was six years old when she had her first acting audition. Her mother’s dream was for her only daughter to become a star, and Jennette would do anything to make her mother happy. So she went along with what Mom called “calorie restriction,” eating little and weighing herself five times a day. She endured extensive at-home makeovers while Mom chided, “Your eyelashes are invisible, okay? You think Dakota Fanning doesn’t tint hers?” She was even showered by Mom until age sixteen while sharing her diaries, email, and all her income.

In I’m Glad My Mom Died, Jennette recounts all this in unflinching detail—just as she chronicles what happens when the dream finally comes true. Cast in a new Nickelodeon series called iCarly, she is thrust into fame. Though Mom is ecstatic, emailing fan club moderators and getting on a first-name basis with the paparazzi (“Hi Gale!”), Jennette is riddled with anxiety, shame, and self-loathing, which manifest into eating disorders, addiction, and a series of unhealthy relationships. These issues only get worse when, soon after taking the lead in the iCarlyspinoff Sam & Cat alongside Ariana Grande, her mother dies of cancer. Finally, after discovering therapy and quitting acting, Jennette embarks on recovery and decides for the first time in her life what she really wants.

Told with refreshing candor and dark humor, I’m Glad My Mom Died is an inspiring story of resilience, independence, and the joy of shampooing your own hair.

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Rating: 4 out of 5.

I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I set off to read more memoirs this year, I enjoyed reading this one. Having not known anything about the author or any of the work she has done. I’m only vaguely familiar with the name of the Disney show iCarly, but I’ve never seen an episode nor would I have ever put her name to face in any of the celebrity press releases or showbiz projects she has been associated with. I think both the title and content of the book would be quite intriguing or off putting, in either case polarizing or at least thought-provoking for certain audiences. Mostly suiting to fit and confirm a certain type of understanding context-wise when it comes to juxtaposition in exploring controversial, dueling emotions when it comes to the complexities of stardom as well as mother-child relationship vulnerable to the traps of the industry and in isolation, and resulting emotionally stunted feelings and behaviors with heavy themes. Especially when it comes to unhealthy aspects and holding conflicting feelings as they relate to confusion, unclear, unhealthy pathways and nuance, as well as overt abuse. Would make for a very interesting book club pick.

The Story
Definitely paves the way to a staging of sorts. The style of telling and perspective from a childhood state of mind is not distinguished from feelings and reactions as an adult, so the voice is a bit blurry when it comes to story telling from way of personal perspective and growth. Made it a bit hard to get to know the entire person and spirit of the story, but yet also compelling at the same time as she had quite a bit of material to draw from in her life events.

The entertainment industry certainly plays a big role in her life, but I think it is actually secondary source and nature to the type of attraction to parents and children who are introduced, compelled, vulnerable, and attached to the nature of the job and lifestyle that comes with it, or last least synergistic effect, both short and long term, playing second nature or at least reflective of the deeper aspects of her life that they are searching for, filling void, and disarrayed to the type of life they yearn for and want to prevail in.

She lies so much, compulsively actually, as a result, was more difficult to ascertain lies in the reading as embellished or exaggerated for reading flare or story as far as entertainment and writing purposes, or reflection of state of mind as part of her deep-seated psychological disorders. I got the sense of genuine story telling along with telling an alternate personality. There were some inconsistencies in her story, such as first taste of alcohol in addition to perceptual ideas and commitment to first hand reactions and aspects on life—- where one experience turns to be past tense and multiple experiences or first experiences turned opposite in later book chapters. Perhaps more reflective of her personality traits or psychological issues as she dealt with finding her feelings and indecision with certain subject matter rather than as flaws in writing composition and technicalities.

Themes included:

-Instability. Parentification. Narcissistic parent. Co-dependency, which I think is better described as enmeshment and emotional incest. Mommy dearest acceptance, mother smother, emotional smothering, the emotionally immature parent. Difficulties in recognition and setting of boundaries, finding individual voice and self, meeting internal desires, needs, finding personal weakness and strength, and path. Then embracing the imperfect and idealistic aspects of life, while also recognizing personal flaws and destructive behaviors. Seeing herself as an individual separate from her mother. Feeling like her life isn’t her life.

-Conflicting feelings between religiosity, relationship, and faith.

-Issues with manipulation to gain roles and visibility within the industry and losing sense of self and identity, especially when those elements have not been quite established nor solidified.

There were also elements of typical sibling and parental squabble, along with prepubescent curiosity and acceptance of change, which I think was probably misinterpreted, misconstrued, and also warped by her unusual upbringing outside of the abuse factors, which made the process even more alienating for her. Especially as she was quite childlike in her pursuit of an adult relationship. Some scenarios, though portrayed otherwise, were not always unique especially to the barriers she experienced when developing sense of self as an adolescent and so some felt less purposeful and meandering, while others more impactful.

She didn’t come quite full circle in the book either, as for book and story completion purposes, rather the second half focuses on details of her eating disorder as result of and ultimately seeking therapy. But is less on learning how love exemplifies respect, to cherish, and loyalty which she massively misses, not really upholding her other relationships and gaining much in the way of harnessing her lack of self control, which may be reflective of another publication in the horizon.

Complexities of covert emotional, psychological, and mental abuse along with physical. All of which cause her to absolve her own, personal life choices. A bit disconnected to the futility of life. Fragmented approach to memoir which maybe reflects her thought process.

It’s a bit difficult to trust the author, as there’s a sense she’s compulsively lying much of the time, in this consistent performance mode. This need to qualify her feelings and thoughts. Being a chameleon. Being nostalgic for better days that were equally bad. From a victim of abuse standpoint, the pretender, dissociative, shallow, and disordered thinking. Childlike magical thinking she never really grew out of.

With the end more devoted to eating disorder. Existential thought felt misplaced and more sense of divulging information then take back what I said thought, not only reflective of the abuse response but showing how she is still hurting and that this book is really published at the middle of her story in its more raw form which I found refreshing to read and restorative in hope for her, especially from a cathartic writing experience as I imagine this may have been for her.

Some of the babble, often overly detailed, gives great context but I felt less interested at some points in the book because of the play-by-play approach. Might be more of a generational interest or life stage sort of entity, or perhaps writing style as she prepped and set the stage for readers as part of her style.

The Writing
Reads like a casual conversation. Staccato style writing. Yo-yo rhythm. Almost too much sometimes as there are some errors in the book apart from the casual writing style and reflected state of mind. Could have used another round of copy edits.

Very much written like saying whatever is on her mind, this internalized outspoken trait with her though process which in this aspect, some elements of the writing are clever, mostly in sharp, quick comeback, punch line form. Over dramatized scenarios. Sort of incohesive thought. Disordered thinking. Unwell. Which in her state of mine is deeply reflective of that, matching well from that standpoint.

POV
1st person present. Some of the tenses and personal references were off.

Sort of timeline jumps, which was okay, just not as complete or cohesive as I think it could have been with another round of edits.

Voice
The voice is much of one in desperation, certainly hiding from herself. Maladjusted. Shows in the portrayal of her characterization of people and herself in the world with sometimes appropriate, sometime inappropriate, but mostly misplaced emotion. Short-sighted. Lacking connection and emotional intimacy with others. Lack of focus with interjections of peculiar humor, humor of coping and adoptive behavior, with one liners that seem to be more of performance than genuine authenticity at times. Coping mechanism using humor to quench the need to entertain an audience as you don’t really see her as a funny personality type in her day to day interactions as she portrays them. Wondered how she pictured life was difficult to ascertain because many of her relationships were purely transactional.

Again the juxtaposition of run away and also very much confrontational at the same time. Like an alter-ego that comes out. Hurt and generally unhappy. Disagreeable. Almost antagonistic and difficult personality absolving herself from personal responsibility in reckless behavior which was a result and consequence of both external and internal factors that plagued her. Performance mode, turned on always. Reactionary and quite reflected in the syntax.

Tone
The tone is rather nasty, mean, crude, selfish, and unrefined, unfiltered. Lacking compassion and forethought. Reactionary and angry. Irritated. Detached. Disagreeable personality. Hyperaware yet clueless at the same time. Hyper vigilant yet less self aware. Strong suits are sharp descriptions, unfiltered observations. Prefaces films in a negative way, ie… low budget and less grateful for the upsides and positive aspect of life which are quite overshadowed because of lingering guilt over her responses to them, and then her shame in placing her feelings toward the situations.

Saying whatever is on her mind, this internalized trait but only seems to appear in her writing of this book, when it ever seems to come out.

Narrow juvenile outlook on circumstances, less convincing of what is true and what is exaggerated.

Without keeping feelings in check and this oversharing a lot of the burden which she still holds, which I think, again, refreshing that it is not in pretty, complete, nor polished form especially as she outlines and highlights a lot more tragedy and chaotic elements in her life, with attempts at maintaining balance for audience and mother’s sake of display and show, which shows how entangled, blind, and complex her relationships were.

Characters
A bit over the top and cruel at some points, but I enjoyed reading her characterization of people.

I enjoyed her sense of humor as maladaptive as it was. She’s a bit of a comedian actually, maybe in more written form at this point.

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