This book by Jennette—popularly known as Sam from iCarly—has stirred A LOT of conversation in the past few weeks, and I mean look at that title! That alone is enough to get anyone talking. Honestly, the title terrifies me to type or say aloud cause I love my mom and like I want her to live forever, and uttering that title sounds like some kind of scary declaration.
Anyway. This memoir isn’t a wry, snarky book as the title might lead one to believe. It’s the recount of a teen star who endured emotional and mental abuse, despite having the kind of fame many people think would make life perfect.
For a while I’ve known that the behind the scenes of Hollywood is a nest of abuse and trauma, but the reason this book felt like a whiplash was because I never thought kids working on Nickelodeon encountered similar issues. Growing up a fan of the network, it had always seemed like a safe space for kids to be ridiculous and have fun. But the reality is that these shows (iCarly, Sam & Cat) that had brought viewer happiness were filled with actors who were very unhappy.
“Fame has put a wedge between Mom and me that I didn’t think was possible. She wanted this. And I wanted her to have it. I wanted her to be happy. But now that I have it, I realize that she’s happy and I’m not. Her happiness came at the cost of mine. I feel robbed and exploited.”
Manipulation is one of the major themes in the memoir. By Jennette’s mother and by ‘The Creator’ especially. It was sad to see how she was ‘molded’ for so long, constantly weighing her wants against other people’s, wondering if she was being selfish for wanting anything her mother didn’t. Her mother had cancer and would often use that against Jennette when Jennette wanted something else. This jars because her character Sam is a load of confidence and it’s easy to believe she was that way in real life, but she wasn’t.
“Catering to him emotionally. I feel similarly around The Creator as I feel around Mom—on edge, desperate to please, terrified of stepping out of line. Put both of them together in the same room and I’m overwhelmed.”
As a fan of the old iCarly, younger me had honestly thought Sam, Carly, and Freddy were friends in real life too because they’d had such chemistry. Especially Sam and Carly, but it turns out their friendship had been a bit hard won. Her mother hadn’t thought Miranda (Carly) a good enough influence and had told Jennette to keep away. But eventually, they did become good friends. Further in the memoir, Ariana Grande (also her co-actress in Sam & Cat) was brought into the story and Jennette shares explicitly her jealousy of Ariana at the time. How Ariana had been allowed more opportunities to pursue a music career while Jennette had been manipulated (by the producers) into constantly holding down the fort—and that couldn’t have been easy to do.
“But what finally undid me was when Ariana came whistle-toning in with excitement because she had spent the previous evening playing charades at Tom Hanks’s house. That was the moment I broke.”
As a Christian myself, the chapter/paragraphs addressing how her mother had suddenly stopped finding church important because Jennette had landed the iCarly role and become a series regular really sank in. And it wasn’t that her mother had decided to stop going to church—no one is forced to go to church. It’s more like when her mother decided to stop, Jennette no longer had the choice to go. And at that point Jennette was 16 years old.
“Maybe people go to church because they want things from God. And they keep going while they’re wishing and yearning and longing for those things. But then maybe once they get those things, they realize they don’t need church anymore.”
Another major theme here was the Price Of Fame. I was honestly puzzled to learn Jennette had hated the Nickelodeon fame at some point, because again I’d thought it wasn’t like Hollywood fame but just kids having fun in an environment made for them and sprinkling happiness all over the world. How wrong I had been. There were many times when she’d hated the spotlight and the Sam jokes and even the fans.
A side note is that this makes you wonder where you stand generally as a fan to shows, musicians, or books. You think you’re doing good supporting your favorite shows and showing your love, but then these stories come out and you wonder if you were merely just a nuisance in their lives. If you were part of what made that point in their life so rough.
The reservations I had while reading the memoir was that sometimes, I wondered if Jennette was coming off a teeny bit self-righteous. In the sense that the blame always laid in everyone else and her ‘shortcomings’ were written in such a way that we the readers had to understand them and her reasons behind them.
Then I also got a sense of friend-worship for Miranda Cosgrove. Because based on the memoir, Miranda did no wrong but was the very best and perfect of friend.
So these made me more attentive to the fact that this was very much Jennette’s point of view. Her recount of the world as she wants to share it, hence might not be totally foolproof.
In the end, I enjoyed reading it, seeing the sides of Nickelodeon we hadn’t known, and my heart went out to Jennette so much. I’m glad she has grown out of that phase and is at a much better place in her life! I definitely recommend people—especially older Nickelodeon fans—read it.
L.O. Nobi is an avid writer, with numerous novels constantly blinking at her on her laptop. She’s a lover of words, reading, and Disney. You can find her tweeting here, or visit her personal blog here.