Recommended by: Heather Hogan - Key Account Manager
6 stone 3 lbs.
This was Jennette McCurdy's goal weight- a number that she believed, once she achieved it, would be enough to wake her mum bolt upright from her coma. But it didn't, and she realised that if this news didn’t wake her, then no news could.
Jennette McCurdy grew up under the harsh spotlight of child stardom, starring in Nickelodeon's 'ICarly' and 'Sam and Cat', and within this memoir, unpacks the dark secrets behind the curtain of what it was like to experience childhood in the public eye, but also under the harsh scrutiny of her mother's parenting. She describes brilliantly in the book about "how the air in the house felt like a held breath", having to endure regimented calorie-restricted eating, extensive 'home makeovers', assisted showering, and invasive 'medical inspections' implemented and carried out by her mother.
Nothing of McCurdy was hers. Her thoughts, ideals, values were all carved and moulded in the image of what her mother would approve. Throughout, Jennette explores what it means to have such complicated grief now her mother isn't here, and the liberation that comes with the new found freedom, all the way down to being able to wash her own hair. She writes impeccably, with such vivid detail and a smooth narrative that reads like a novel- so it was easy to fall straight in and feel invested. She writes with no intention of sugar coating, and the results are bold, brave and unafraid to address trauma head on.
All the way through, you can see the intricate tactics of manipulation Jennette’s mum used against her. She would well up in tears, upset if 8 year old Jennette changed her ice cream order, claiming that ‘you’re growing up and changing too fast’, causing her to feel guilty and change her mind back. She would tell Jennette to tell casting directors about her health issues to win over a ‘sympathy vote’ in auditions. She would be sceptical about Jennette writing her first stories and screenplays, worried that it will distract her from her acting, and god forbid, prefer it, but was more than happy for Jennette to write quick easy poems about how much Jennette loved her. Jennette felt responsible for her mum’s emotions and behaviour 100% of the time from an unbelievably young age, and it’s evident how her success wasn’t down to a drive of achieving a personal dream, it was down to a motivation of making her mum happy. The tactics were countless, I’d be here listing them all day…
What I also found super interesting is McCurdy's decision on how to portray Dan Schneider, simply calling him 'The Creator' which had a very sinister feel to it. For those who aren't familiar, Dan Schneider was the producer mogul of Nickelodeon's kids shows in the noughties, creating Drake and Josh, Zoey 101, Victorious, and of course the shows that McCurdy starred in. Shrouded in controversy, fans have called out for years for an investigation to be launched after numerous rumours and claims of his abusive and inappropriate behaviour. (Many pointed out the strange sexualised innuendos he would write in for young female actresses, most of them minors.) And though McCurdy doesn’t necessarily spill any juice (pat on the back for S&S US legal team there…) her descriptions of him and the impact he made on her life are definitely scarring and uncomfortable to imagine.
The entire time I read this, all I wanted to do was reach through the pages and give Jennette a huge empathetic hug- and I think the best writers make you want to do this! And it's only wonderful news that she's now working on a novel- she found a fan in me when I was a kid, wolfing down Jaffa cakes and watching her on screen after school, and now she's found a fan in me as an adult, in a completely new way. Overall, this is by far one of the best memoirs I've read- easily accessible, written beautifully, and strikes a careful balance between humour and sadness. (There were some moments where I almost threw the book in the corner shouting ‘give the girl a damn break!’) But McCurdy, though initially completely lost after the eventual death of her mother, becomes so much happier, healthier, and very deservedly, independent. I'm sure her inner child is now beaming, finally choosing writing over acting, something she's wanted for so very long, and finally has the freedom to pursue.