The First Time She Drowned

Paperback | March 14, 2017

byKerry Kletter

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"Lyrical, emotional...resonant." —Entertainment Weekly 

"One of the most lyrical novels I’ve ever read. Haunting and exquisite." —Nicola Yoon, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Everything, Everything

 Cassie O'Malley has spent the past two and a half years in a mental institution--dumped there by her mother, against her will. Now, at 18, Cassie emancipates herself, determined to start over and reclaim her life. But when the unhealthy mother-daughter relationship that defined Cassie's childhood and adolescence threatens to pull her under once again, Cassie must decide: whose version of history is the truth, and whose life must she save?

"Beautiful and passionate . . . [Kletter is] a writer of great distinction and infinite promise." Pat Conroy, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Prince of Tides and South of Broad

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"Lyrical, emotional...resonant." —Entertainment Weekly "One of the most lyrical novels I’ve ever read. Haunting and exquisite." —Nicola Yoon, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Everything, Everything Cassie O'Malley has spent the past two and a half years in a mental institution--dumped there by her mother, against her will. Now, ...

Kerry Kletter has had a lifelong passion for story. She holds a degree in literature and has an extensive background in theater, having appeared in film, television, and onstage. When not writing, Kerry can be found surfing, running, working with animals, or singing loudly in her car while stuck in LA traffic. A native of Ridgewood, Ne...

other books by Kerry Kletter

The First Time She Drowned
The First Time She Drowned

Hardcover|Mar 15 2016

$21.10 online$23.99list price(save 12%)
Format:PaperbackDimensions:352 pages, 8.25 × 5.5 × 0.88 inPublished:March 14, 2017Publisher:Penguin Young Readers GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0147513278

ISBN - 13:9780147513274


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Read from the Book

PROLOGUE My mother wore the sun like a hat. It followed her as we did, stopping when she stopped, moving when she moved. She carried her beauty with the naiveté of someone who was born to it and thus never understood its value or the poverty of ugliness. As children, my older brother Matthew and I were drawn to her like tides, always reaching our arms up to her, pulled to her light. If she had shadows, I did not recognize them as such. I saw her only in her most perfect form and any suggestion of coldness or unkindness was merely a reflection of me. This was the unspoken agreement I had with her, suspiciously drawn up before I was old enough to understand its cost. Until I was a teenager, my family lived on the poor side of a wealthy town in Pennsylvania. It was a washed-out looking neighborhood where the colors of the houses were tired and peeling from neglect. Still, we had a huge backyard that stretched wide and ripe with all things wonderful to children. On its left seam it was lined with blackberry bushes whose purple juices stained our fingers as we stuffed them into jars for jam. On the right and perched tenuously on a hill as if cresting a wave of green, sat an enormous yellow boat, so old and weathered it had undoubtedly crawled its way to the shores of our yard to die. The boat was as big as our house and about as seaworthy. When I once asked my mother why we bothered to keep it, she looked not at the boat but at my father who was tooling uselessly about its deck. “It’s a fixer upper for sure,” she’d said. “But maybe there’s something we can salvage.” She didn’t sound very convincing. If nothing else, the boat was the perfect venue for playing pirates. Every weekend, Matthew, who loved to wield his authority in being three years older, played the role of the good captain while I, in a flash of prescience, was relegated to the part of the doomed and hated buccaneer. He would order me to move here and there, serving as both actor and director of our little scenes, and I would follow his instructions dutifully because Matthew was always better at pretending than I was. Meanwhile, my father cleaned and fussed with the old boat, muttering and sighing as if his repetitive efforts might someday induce its spirit back to life. My brother and I would race wildly around him, as heedless of his frustrated cursing—the background noise of our childhood—as he was to our presence. For it was not for him that we played and scrambled about, maybe not even always for ourselves, but for her, the one who wore the sun like a hat, who was the sun to us. Because she mattered more. And because I sensed on some subterranean level that she needed us to, sensed that if we did not play the role of happy children, she might break like the Atlantic upon us. Yet, for all my efforts, there were moments when I would catch my mother looking at that broken boat with the strange and startled horror of the drowning. This frightened me, and always I looked to Matthew to see if he too noticed the seas rising behind my mother’s eyes. He did not. Or if he did, he did not acknowledge it. But I saw too much. And I was never as good at pretending as Matthew was.

Editorial Reviews

Praise for The First Time She Drowned:"Lyrical, emotional...resonant." —Entertainment Weekly"Beautiful and passionate . . . [Kletter is] a writer of great distinction and infinite promise." —Pat Conroy, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Prince of Tides and South of Broad"Kerry Kletter’s The First Time She Drowned is the kind of book I love best—a lovely and haunting keep-you-up-all-night heart-wrencher that is both beautiful and raw, painful and uplifting. It’s utterly amazing. An incredible read. Be warned though—you will want to read Cassie’s story, start to finish, in one sitting. And then you will want to race to put it in the hands (and hearts) of everyone you know and love." —Jennifer Niven, New York Times bestselling author of All the Bright Places"Sentence by sentence . . . one of the most lyrical novels I’ve ever read. Haunting and exquisite." —Nicola Yoon, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Everything, Everything"The First Time She Drowned is an exquisite and masterful dive, a brave exploration into the complexities of family, and the saving grace of friendship. Kletter’s writing is hypnotic, her characters alive, her story tragic, beautiful, hopeful. Simply put, this book is stunning." —David Arnold, critically acclaimed author of Mosquitoland"[A] beautiful, gut-wrenching ache of a story. If you are at all interested in books, this is required reading." —Becky Albertalli, author of the Morris Award-winning Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda "The best writers are able to tell the most difficult stories with the most empathy, and that’s just what Kletter does in this haunting debut about a girl lost in the depths of her family’s secrets and shame. Complex, affirming, and beautifully written." —Stephanie Kuehn, author of the Morris Award-winning Charm & Strange"Gorgeous, sumptuously lyrical, luminous…a feast for lovers of language. The First Time She Drowned singlehandedly shatters every argument that YA books aren't fit fare for adults." —Jeff Zentner, author of The Serpent King * "[An] excellent debut novel....heart-wrenching....Readers who enjoy the suspense of unreliable narrators, as in Adele Griffin’s Loud Awake and Lost or Stephanie Kuehn’s Complicit, will appreciate this one." —Booklist, starred review"This heartfelt, lyrical debut will strike a chord with older teens who appreciate contemporary fiction." —Kirkus Reviews"An absorbing of realistic fiction will be drawn to this book." —VOYA"Kletter’s exploration of a dysfunctional family through the eyes of a daughter is raw with emotion…a sophisticated read…lyrical.” —School Library Journal "A complex novel that ultimately uplifts." —Publishers Weekly