I needed a celebrity memoir for the 2023 Popsugar Reading Challenge, and what do you know, on my TBR was I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy (Simon & Schuster, 2021). Jennette is best known for playing Sam Puckett on the Nickelodeon show iCarly, but she’s also a talented writer. I started learning of her toxic relationship with her mother at the beginning of the pandemic, when an article she’d written made the rounds, and, having watched all of iCarly with my son and now my daughter, I was horrified. I knew I’d eventually want to read her memoir, but the wait lists at my library were miles long, so I was prepared to be patient. However, I got lucky, and the book pulled me in so strongly that I finished it in hours. Drop whatever you’re currently reading and get a copy of this book. NOW.
Jennette McCurdy was raised by a toxic narcissist mother who physically, emotionally, and sexually abused her her entire childhood. Mother Debra was a cancer survivor and often used this status to gain favors and sympathy from everyone around her. The book opens on a scene where she’s going through the nightly ritual of making her children watch her goodbye video she had recorded for them when she wasn’t expected to survive, and criticizing their behavior on the screen (never mind that they were all younger and already traumatized). Acting had been Debra’s dream, never Jennette’s, and she pushed her daughter into it and began to live vicariously through her. Jennette, already feeling responsible for managing her mother’s emotions from her preschool years, does her best to smile through the auditions and performances that she hates to keep her mother happy.
As Jennette grows, her mother teaches her to have an eating disorder in order to stay small, so she can play younger roles, since Jennette’s work is paying the family’s bills. This, combined with the stress of a career as a child AND managing her narcissist mother’s emotions, has terrible effects on Jennette’s mental health, and the constant criticism and stress of working in Hollywood only add to it all. When Debra’s cancer returns and ends her life, Jennette, left without the ability to manage any of her emotions and without the knowledge of who she is without her mother, spirals.
Every chapter of this book will reach out and grip you by the throat, then punch you in the gut, then tear your heart out and stomp it flat. The devastation that Jennette’s mother wreaked upon her life easily explains the provocative title (my daughter saw the title and was shocked; I simply explained to her that not everyone is lucky enough to have parents that treat them well, that some kids have parents who hurt them, and she understood and was sad). I absolutely blew through this masterpiece of a book, but I spent the entire time just devastated for Jennette. We watch a lot of iCarly around here, and it hurts me to know not only what she was going through when filming those scenes, but that she didn’t even want to be there in the first place. I’m so sad for everything Jennette McCurdy has suffered.
I’m also furious at Hollywood, like ragingly burn-it-all-the-fuck-down, STOP-USING-CHILDREN-IN-TELEVISION-AND-MOVIES furious. Jennette was hideously exploited, used, and abused by SO many adults in her work life, adults who were ultimately there to make money and who weren’t going to let something as silly as the mental and physical health of children get in their way. How disgusting are we that we KNOW this is a problem, it’s been a problem for a long time, and yet we continue to look the other way. If this book doesn’t make you think twice about Hollywood and children participating in it, I don’t know what will. As someone who grew up loving Nickelodeon, I’m utterly disgusted by how deeply soulless that network has turned out to be.
Jennette’s on the road to recovery. It’s not a smooth path, but, as she says, it’s important to not let the slips become slides, something I can deeply relate to. She’s a remarkable person, and I’m 100% cheering her on.
This is a deeply powerful memoir, one of the most powerful I’ve ever read. Emotional and physical devastation on every page, and yet Jennette’s writing will propel you through the pages at rocket speed. I’ve read that even people who weren’t aware of who Jennette McCurdy was before this book were as similarly affected as I was, so even if you’ve never watched a single episode of iCarly, this is one book you do NOT want to miss. I cannot state how strongly this book touched me, and how much I deeply wish that Jennette McCurdy is able to heal and cultivate the future she wants and needs.
Amazing, amazing book. If I could give it a hundred thousand stars, I would.
Content warnings exist for physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, eating disorders, sexual exploitation, illness and death of a parent, and emotional trauma.
Visit Jennette McCurdy’s website here.
3 thoughts on “Book Review: I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy”
I’m so glad you found this book to be amazing. I felt the exact same way. I really admire Jennette for her courage to write this book and to be so personal and open about it.
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Couldn’t have said it better! She’s an absolute beacon of honesty and strength, and I admire her courage to serve as an example of what healing looks like. She’s incredibly brave.