Review: Jennette McCurdy’s ‘I’m Glad My Mom Died’ offers a raw look into abuse, eating disorders and recovery

Review: 'I'm Glad My Mom Died' is raw look at abuse, eating disorders

The 'iCarly' star's memoir is a shocking testament that the lives of child stars are not as perfect as we fantasize them to be.
Published: September 19, 2022
Jennette McCurdy poses on Nickelodeon's
Jennette McCurdy's new memoir was released in August.

Jennette McCurdy’s recent memoir, I’m Glad My Mom Died has made pop-culture waves as a stark reframing of a beloved actress most notable among Gen-Zs for her role as Sam in iCarly. It is a story that prompts personal healing and growth, both for its child-star author and those who read it.

With that said, if you struggle with disordered eating or parental abuse, this may be an especially difficult read for you. Even for those who don’t struggle with these things, it will, without a doubt, still be an emotional read. It should be emotional. It should be tear-jerking, heartbreaking and jaw-dropping. It’s unnerving to witness a first-hand account of suffering by someone so many of us recognize from our childhood— someone we watched often as an escape from our own issues at home. 

McCurdy begins by discussing her complicated family dynamic that includes her three brothers, her grandparents, her mom and her somewhat-removed father. Specifically, she introduces her early relationship with her mother, Debra McCurdy, and describes the unhealthy dynamic between them.

In this beginning, it is clear how much McCurdy tried to make her mother proud from a young age. She describes a time when her mother would always show the family a home video from when she was diagnosed with cancer. In the video, a two-year-old McCurdy sings “Jingle Bells” in the background. McCurdy later describes the immense shame she felt towards her toddler self.

Jennette McCurdy's book

“Age is no excuse… How could I not have known better? What a stupid idiot,” McCurdy said in her memoir.

This anecdote marked the beginning of a long and draining future of trying to gain her mother’s approval.

Transitioning into the start of her acting career, McCurdy describes how she hated acting, but continued with it in order to prevent the immense guilt that Debra would place on her. Her mother wanted the future for McCurdy that she herself never had, and she forced it upon her daughter.

“Mom wants this more than anything, not me,” McCurdy said in her memoir. “This day was stressful and not fun, and if given the choice, I would choose never to do anything like it again.”

Despite her negative feelings toward acting, McCurdy continued to act as her mom became more and more consumed with the idea of fame.

Through the beginning of the memoir, the abuse that McCurdy tolerated from a young age at the hands of her mom is evident. By reading about McCurdy’s experiences, we are able to reflect upon our own childhoods and behavior exhibited by our parents. It can be difficult to recognize abuse when it’s happening to you, but witnessing it from an outside perspective allows us to see the signs more clearly and compare it to our own ordeals.

Additionally, the largest topic of the memoir is McCurdy’s battle with anorexia and bulimia, which she says was caused by her mom. As she started acting, McCurdy began to realize that looking younger than her real age was a valuable tool for booking jobs. When she hit puberty, McCurdy and her mother began to panic, and she was introduced to calorie restrictions. McCurdy describes calorie restrictions as a bonding experience with Debra, and discusses in detail the pride she felt when she presented a half-eaten plate to her mom.

Jennette McCurdy on the red carpet at an event
Jennette McCurdy engages with fans on the red carpet.

This disordered eating continued, even after her mother’s death. Weight and eating had consumed her relationship with her mother, and, after Debra’s passing, McCurdy did not know what to do with herself. There was no longer anyone to restrict her, and she began a vicious cycle of eating, then purging. Throughout the second half of the memoir, McCurdy illustrates her recovery from bulimia, her relapses, her good and bad days and her journey through different therapies.

Reading detailed accounts of a beloved celebrity figure’s battle with eating disorders was shocking and disturbing. It can be extremely difficult to understand and empathize with a disorder that you have not experienced, but McCurdy did an impressive job at describing what it was really like. I was able to walk in her shoes throughout the memoir and truly feel what it must have been like going through her journey.

Eating disorders have a unique reputation in that they are strongly misunderstood, and the true side effects of a severe disorder are unknown to most. Eating disorders are often wrongfully idealized and create a false sense of control. Many people do not understand how incredibly damaging an eating disorder can be, and the effects are not pretty. McCurdy describes the lowest point in her bulimia and recounts how the constant throwing up caused her throat to bleed and her teeth to decay and fall out.

In modern society, eating disorders have become idolized in a twisted way, through 2014’s Tumblr “thinspo” and even current TikTok culture. The romanticization of eating disorders in the media today is on the rise, but McCurdy’s memoir did a strong job of showing the cold hard truth of what it is really like. Though it was an emotionally-challenging read, I’m Glad My Mom Died changed my personal perception of heavy topics such as parental abuse and eating disorders. McCurdy is a prime example that healing is anything but linear, and yet recovery is possible.