TW: OCD, disordered eating and parental abuse
“I’m Glad My Mom Died” is a cynical, crude memoir written by Jennette McCurdy, an ex-Nickelodeon child actor best known for the hit shows “iCarly” and “Sam & Cat.” The book revolves around child abuse, the traumas of Hollywood, eating disorders and mental health disorders. McCurdy breaks down why she left the acting industry to pursue a writing career, a decision unexpected for a child actor at her caliber.
“I’m Glad My Mom Died” discusses McCurdy’s development throughout her childhood underneath her mother’s tutelage and her eventual realization that a lot of what her mother did was questionable and often downright abusive.
In general, the easiest way to think about the book is “precise.” McCurdy studies her memories with the clarity of someone watching her life happen live and rolling with it, just because she can. She describes her experiences with the mindset of a child, and then slowly shifts that perspective to her current one.
The whole book is devastating. McCurdy’s dark humor cuts through her depressive cynicism, and her occasional tangents run off as a gentle reprieve from her pain. She speaks as though she’s still living those moments now — as if she’s still five years old and being forced into her first audition, her mother’s sharp white smile glinting at her from a distance.
The story may serve as a warning for many people about how child acting may not necessarily be a good choice. It acts as a therapeutic expression for McCurdy, who writes all of this to analyze her unorthodox childhood.
She reminisces about how she learned to cry on-demand for her mother’s dream and how to count calories when she was just a kid. She describes how she tried to stay below her calorie count so she could sit by her mother’s comatose body and tell her, “I’m finally down to 89 pounds,” to try and wake her up. She hurtles into alcoholism and drinking her lights out while dealing with her Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder — a worrisome combination for the next few years of her life. To top it all off, she has to do all of this while trying to come to terms with the fact that her mother, who was the reason for her success and for coming this far, is also one of the reasons why she’s depressed and terrified.
Overall, it’s hard to not like the book. I found it compelling — in the way someone’s life is compelling — and she speaks with such fluidity that it almost feels like a movie. To top it all off, McCurdy makes sure that she never bars details about anything that is ugly or cruel within her personality. She is willing to state impulsive thoughts in those moments where she either thought she was an opinionated pushover or someone who wished she could get anorexia. She doesn’t share this for shock factor, but because it’s true — like how the sky is blue. She makes it hard to dislike her, especially with her experiences and her cynical love for the world.
Of course, this is for a certain kind of audience. If you like a slow burn, a general understanding of someone’s life without any of the justifications, this book is for you. But if you’re someone who wants reason, who wants the author to go more in-depth about her views or the way she perceives certain things, it might be difficult for you to enjoy it. The book leans heavily on a more open-ended side, where the ending doesn’t hark back to her child acting career, her eating disorders or how all of this might be problematic; some people may need more closure.
Regardless, the book is a fantastic read, especially with how brave McCurdy was to even release this, and even more given the knowledge that her life is ongoing; it makes sense for her to have an open-ended ending. How could her life be finished when it’s still in progress?
All in all, “I’m Glad My Mom Died” is a 5/5 star read for me. And yes, I’m glad her mom died, too.