Wow. This one was brutal.
Jennette McCurdy is an excellent writer and draws you in from the very beginning of her memoir. I’ll admit, I had to put this down many times and opt out of reading it at night just becuase I couldn’t stop thinking about the things I read. McCurdy is a survivor of trauma at the hands of the industry and at the hands of her own mother. She paints a vivid picture of the abuse and exploitation she suffered, able to make the reader deeply uncomfortable as she describes what she was subjected to. Her mother, Debra McCurdy, was very clearly suffering with untreated mental illness, but was also a narcissist trying to live her dreams of fame through her daughter. When Jennette actually succeeded in obtaining fame she developed alcohol dependency and an eating disorder as a way to cope with her mother’s never ending demands of perfection, even after her passing.
During the very beginning of the memoir, Jennette describes a hospital visit to see her mother, who at that point was at the end stages of breast cancer. When she finally has a moment alone with her mother in the hospital room, and although she is unconscious, Jennette happily tells her that she has finally reached the goal weight her mother set for her of 89 pounds, hoping that it will wake her mother from her coma or at least stir a reaction. Sadly neither of those things happen, and Debra McCurdy passes away shortly thereafter.
This is just one of the many harrowing stories Jennette share’s in this deeply personal memoir. She describes her meetings with “The Creator” at Nickelodeon, who would serve her alcohol even though she was underage and make inapprorpaite advances towards her. She talks about dating men who were much older than her that were part of the industry in order to feel some semblence of control of her life. She also describes her downward spiral into alcohol abuse which lasted for several years after her mother passed, as a way to deal with the repressed trauma.
As of the memoir’s publishing, Jennette has left the acting world and is several years sober. She survived an industry that has destroyed the lives of many child stars before her and after her. I hope her memoir serves as a cautionary tale, and influences more protections for child stars.