Review: I’m Glad My Mom Died

Review: I’m Glad My Mom Died

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Having risen to fame in the hit Nickelodeon show iCarly, Jennette McCurdy recounts her childhood and experience growing up with an abusive and narcissistic parent. All her mother wanted was for Jennette to be a star, and from a young age, Jennette knew she wanted to make her mother happy. McCurdy guides us through her life with great wit and insight, her story is much more than the rumours on the internet, and she has given us an empowering journey of self-recovery. I almost have so much to say about this book and also no words for it at all

McCurdy recounts moments like her mother threatening her dad with a knife in front of her, showering her until she was 16, which included invasive exams to check her body for cancer lumps and leading her daughter to develop an eating disorder in order to keep her body looking young. (Looking young had meant more acting roles) McCurdy retells her story in the present tense, keeping to her age when she is recounting, so without interruption, you witness her go from a naive and hopeful child to a bitter young adult. McCurdy’s voice is dry and sharp, and the moments she chooses to show us are disconcerting. McCurdy’s mother had done a lot of harm to Jennette in her lifetime, but the most significant blow is the damage to her daughter’s body image. She is only 11 when she takes on a restrictive diet; alongside her mother, they weigh themselves almost every day, and if anyone spoke up about it, her mother would simply lash out and leave the room. Rewards for good behaviour (weight loss) would often be zero-calorie ice lollies. Readers would do well to research content warnings before choosing to read this, as the details about weight loss and her recovery were painful to read.McCurdy does not sugarcoat her past, nor does she glamorise her recovery. Every word is raw and honest. The title might be an odd choice for anyone unaware, but after you close the final page, you begin to understand her a little more, even if you can never understand that feeling yourself.

As headlines amplify the dark side of Nickelodeon and McCurdy’s complicated relationship with Ariana Grande, this memoir is so much more than that. Jennette said it best herself, “this book can’t be reduced to any sort of headline,” I’m Glad My Mom Died is a visceral and emotional account of Jennette’s life from childhood to her mid-twenties. Having grown up watching Jennette on iCarly, reading her memoir has given me even more respect for her. Finishing this book and knowing she’s on the road to recovery makes me incredibly proud and happy. Her journey was hard and long, but reading her story of survival will have any reader encaptivated by her voice.


GOODREADS | AMAZON | AUTHOR

Review: All That’s Left Unsaid

Review: All That’s Left Unsaid

*I received a copy from the publisher via Netgalley in return for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.*

Ky Trans returns to her hometown of Cabramatta in the wake of her younger brother’s death after he was brutally murdered inside a restaurant. Ky discovers that not only do the police have no idea what happened, but every witness in the building also claims they saw nothing. Determined to find out what had happened, Ky is forced to recount her childhood as her own investigation will have her return to the community of Cabramatta, a place so buried in her past that the truth might never be free. 

Ky’s story will resonate with many children of immigrants, families whose lives were uprooted and planted in a foreign nation and left to survive in a community that doesn’t want them. The real Cabramatta is home to many Vietnamese families, and Lien incorporates the history well into this tale of a young woman desperate to find the truth. Her parents can barely speak English, so navigating the system is already a hurdle that only she can help her family with. When she realises finding the truth will be hard as people begin to suspect her brother was involved with the local gangs. She is forced to investigate the roots of her communities and face the harsh realities that she left behind. Intergenerational trauma, racism, addiction and poverty are just some of the hardships that Cabramatta faces. And Ky has to return to the roots of her parents, her brother and her childhood friend, who she had lost connection with years ago. 

However, I did feel like there could’ve been a better distinction between the flashbacks of the past, as those scenes tend to blend into one. The mystery aspect of the story doesn’t hold up well, so in terms of suspense, I felt like it wasn’t strong enough to keep me on my toes. Nonetheless, Ky’s story is still heartbreaking and powerful. 

Overall, All That’s Left Unsaid is insightful and emotional. Lien has a strong writing style that compels me to look forward to future releases. A crafted story that brings forth a touching tale about community and survival while also a snapshot into the lives of the Vietnamese community in the 90s.


GOODREADS | AMAZON | AUTHOR

Review: Love & Other Dramas

Review: Love & Other Dramas

*I received a copy from the publisher via Netgalley in return for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.*

Love & Other Dramas follow the lives of three different women. Tania is newly divorced, her mother Helen is recently widowed, and her best friend, Priya, nearly lost her job and then her promotion to a newcomer. Tania struggles to move on from her husband, Helen finds it hard when faced with a new lover, and Priya can’t seem to get her mind off her lost promotion. As all three ladies begin to move on, a series of secrets from the past threaten to bring them back to their knees, and who knows if their relationship will survive?

Having found this by accident after perusing the Netgalley discover page, I am glad to have found this book. It was a fun and refreshing story that was quick to absorb and enjoy. Three distinct voices and intertwining tales about the relationship of these three women, not only with others but also with themselves. They are all dealing with their own issues, having to fight against expectations and learning how to trust in their own instinct. Tania is divorced and finds herself returning to her ex-husband as she struggles to return to her life before marriage. Her mother, Helen, comes to terms with the fact her husband was not the man everyone thought he was and finds difficulty in her new relationship. Priya should hate the women who snatched her promotion from under her, but she cannot help but be captivated by her. 

Love & Other Dramas is a fun and witty debut, a tale of women dealing with life in a realistic and healthy way. There’s something to love in their journeys, all coping with romantic, familial and platonic love. Collings explores their lives in thrilling detail, cultivating their stories and weaving together three distinct stories that still come together into one solid story about starting over and second chances that shouldn’t be missed.


GOODREADS | AMAZON | AUTHOR

Review: You Will Get Through This Night

Review: You Will Get Through This Night

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Written by Daniel Howell, in conjunction with psychologist Dr. Heather Bolton, comes a guide to understanding the human mind’s mess. Split into three chapters, You Will Get Through This Night takes you from preparing for your most challenging moments to figuring out the small steps and helping you thrive for the days after. 

I will start by saying that I was a massive fan of Daniel Howell growing up. From the ages of 13 to 17, I had a Tumblr blog that initially began as a fan blog for many up-and-coming British Youtubers at the time. (danisnotonfire, amazingphil, charlieissocoollike…. you get the gist.) Does this mean anything for this review? Probably not, except for reminding myself of my cringest teenage moments. 

You Will Get Through This Night tackles several topics, such as dealing with anxiety in different situations or finding motivation in places that once sparked joy. For me, everything Dan had mentioned was, quite frankly, nothing new. Written collaboratively with Dr Bolton, this book leans into the bare building blocks when discussing mental health, which made me realise this book is targeted towards his younger teen audience or people who haven’t thought about their own mental health before. And that felt rather odd, but then again, that might be my fault for expecting more of Dan’s own experiences in this book. It also made me aware of how different I am now than I was over ten years ago when I started watching Dan’s content. For example, his self-deprecating humour is definitely something that past me would’ve enjoyed. Still, now in my mid-twenties, this book feels somewhat outdated, and his humour that works well in a video format doesn’t translate amazingly in a written form. However, I appreciate his decision to work with a psychologist on this, as he can bring forward and discuss ways of dealing with mental health using research that might not otherwise be accessible to everyday people. Most of the advice he gave didn’t apply to me, but that is just the mess that is mental health. But for an audience that might not have thought about it before, this guide might be a perfect gateway for further research. 

I don’t want to be too critical in a way that sounds rude because I still hold him dearly as someone who impacted my early teen years. Knowing his reality during the times when he was quite literally helping my mental health, I still finished this book with the same respect I’ll always have. It’s hard not to be happy for him and how far he’s come from those little youtube videos in his room.  

It is clear how Dan wanted to help his viewers and others, and maybe ten years ago, this would’ve helped me then. But the outdated attempts of relatability with early 2010s humour are not my cup of tea anymore. But I do hope this book finds itself in the hands of someone who needs it. 


GOODREADS | AMAZON | AUTHOR

Review: Life Ceremony

Review: Life Ceremony

Rating: 3 out of 5.

*I received a copy from the publisher via Netgalley in return for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.*

In her first collection of short stories, Sayaka Murata explores society and identity in uncanny yet creative ways. Life Ceremony is a bundle of tales, some humorous, most horror which take on norms and values of society and reinvent them in a peculiar way. Most take in modern-day Japan or an alternate future reality which is up to the reader’s imagination. 

Life Ceremony – the titular story of a woman who witnesses her friend’s life ceremony – a process in which in place of a funeral, the deceased is used to make a meal which is shared amongst the funeral-goers who then go on to partake in procreation as a way to create life out of death. A First-Rate Material – an engaged couple who stand on opposite ends of using deceased bodies in everyday materials such as clothing or furniture. This one was rather fascinating to read in a way I couldn’t really describe. Poochie – Two middle school girls take turns feeding their… strange pet. This one just threw me off completely. One of the shortest ones but definitely gets your attention. 

A strange but wonderful collection of stories. I am very glad I went through this with no expectations as a first-time reader of Murata. I particularly enjoyed her nonconformist way of exploring societal norms. Some stories I prefered over the others but overall, a strong collection, nonetheless.


GOODREADS | AMAZON | AUTHOR

Review: The Name She Gave Me

Review: The Name She Gave Me

Rating: 4 out of 5.

*I received a proof copy from Harper360YA in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book.*

When Rynn was born, she was named Scheherazade and that is the only thing she knows about her past. Growing up on a farm in Maine, her relationship with her adoptive family is somewhat fine, her father is kind, but her mother is cold. Now, at age sixteen, she finds out that she has a younger sister and the fracture line that she has grown up on threatens to break when she wants to reunite with her. 

I went into this book with zero expectations. I had requested it from the publisher’s list based on the fact that it was a novel in verse, a story format that I’ve recently wanted to delve into more. And I was floored away about The Name She Gave Me. It was a compassionate tale about a young girl desperate to find some semblance of answers about her past using only her birth name. 

Drawing from her own experience as an adoptee, Culley writes with nuance about family, both born and made. A cast of characters that are equally fleshed out within the format with a straightforward way of writing that really packs a punch. Rynn’s verses highlight an emotional journey from finding her biological half-sister to becoming distant from her adoptive family in her search for finding herself. A few chapters slip into the perspective of her sister, highlighting her own life, separate from her older sister. It was unexpected but I particularly enjoyed seeing how different their line of thought compares especially with their different upbringings. 

A compelling and fascinating tale in verse which delves into the intricate and often heartbreaking truths of what becomes of family and how it can make or break everything. 


GOODREADS | AMAZON | AUTHOR