March 15, 2016 Debuts

“THE LOST CELT is the best kind of children’s adventure story, full of taut suspense, riveting action, and, most importantly, humor and heart. Not to be missed.”
— Katherine Applegate
Winner of the 2013 Newbery Medal

Fourth Graders Mikey and Kyler are convinced that they've seen a real live Celtic warrior transported to the present as part of a secret defense project. If they track him down, they're sure to reveal the secrets of time-travel once and for all, and write the best Veteran's Day report in the history of Veterans Day reports. Instead they discover a different secret: the invisible effects of war on veterans of all generations and their families and the transcendent power of friendship.

The beautiful struggle of a girl desperate for the one relationship that has caused her the most pain

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. She attends college, forms new friendships, and even attempts to start fresh with her mother. But before long, their unhealthy relationship threatens to pull Cassie under once again. As Cassie struggles to reclaim her life, childhood memories persist and confuse, and Cassie must consider whose version of history is real, and more important, whose life she must save.

A bold, literary story about the fragile complexities of mothers and daughters and learning to love oneself, The First Time She Drowned reminds us that we must dive deep into our pasts if we are ever to move forward.

"Kletter’s excellent debut novel incorporates the dubious reliability of Cassie’s narration with the psychological mind games played her cruelly self-absorbed mother. Cassie is continually on the verge of such heart-wrenching pain that she does seem to drown, over and over again, in fury and denial. Readers who enjoy the suspense of unreliable narrators, as in Adele Griffin’s Loud Awake and Lost (2013) or Stephanie Kuehn’s Complicit (2014), will appreciate this one."
-- Booklist starred review
"Kletter frames wrenching moments between mother and daughter and troubling references to suicide with the murky outlines of Cassie’s childhood memories, suggesting how easily one’s life can spiral out of control when abuse is involved... A complex novel that ultimately uplifts."
-- Publisher's Weekly

My review: This is a beautiful, heart-wrenching book about the pain of growing up in a toxic family, about growing up and learning to recognize the difference between conditional and unconditional love, about how courage, strength, and kindness can help a young woman grow away from an abusive childhood.

Cassie is such a lovely character. Her voice is strong and memorable, and I was rooting for her through all of her triumphs and setbacks, even when she was falling into old patterns that I knew wouldn't end well. There are some scenes in here, especially the gut-punching memories from Cassie's childhood, that are so painfully real they will haunt me for a long time. Her relationships with family and friends are complex and imperfect, painful and troubled--sometimes infuriatingly so!--but her journey overall is so incredibly hopeful. 

Highly recommended--this is a book that will stick with you.