7 Child Actor Memoirs To Read After Watching QUIET ON SET

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Quiet On Set is a five-part documentary series that uncovers the dark side of the production of Nickelodeon TV shows in the 1990s and 2000s, particularly while Dan Schneider was showrunner. The series includes interviews with many of the actors who worked on the show as kids, including allegations of verbal harassment, sexism, and sexualizing of children on set. In Quiet On Set, Drake Bell (star of Drake & Josh) spoke out about being sexually abused by Nickelodeon dialogue coach Brian Peck, who has since been charged with child sexual abuse.

The documentary series comes on the heels of Jennette McCurdy’s bestselling 2022 memoir, which detailed her abusive relationship with her mother as well as her eating disorders during her time as a child star on Nickelodeon. If you’re looking to learn more about the experience of child actors, these memoirs can give you a look behind the curtain of what it’s like to grow up in the spotlight.

While gossip magazines are quick to voyeuristically report on the rise and fall of child actors, it’s much more rare for these celebrities to tell their own stories. That may partly be because many of them are still in the industry and don’t want to be blacklisted for speaking out about their negative experiences — this is especially true for BIPOC and other marginalized actors, who already face racism and systemic discrimination trying to find acting jobs, so the risk in being seen as “difficult” is much higher.

Not all of these books are tell-alls about being a child actor, but they offer different perspectives on this experience. They also cover a range of decades, but many of the negative experiences of working as a child actor continue unabated even decades later.

Without any further ado, here are seven memoirs from former child actors to read now that you’ve finished watching Quiet On Set.

cover of I'm Glad My Mom Died by Jennette Mccurdy; photo of author in a pink dress holding a pink urncover of I'm Glad My Mom Died by Jennette Mccurdy; photo of author in a pink dress holding a pink urn

I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette Mccurdy

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. It’s no surprise Jennette McCurdy’s memoir has been so widely read because it reveals the experience of being a reluctant child actor — her abusive mother pushed her into the career — and it’s also very well written. McCurdy’s dry humor and unflinching depictions of her childhood make this an unputdownable read that’s especially good on audio. This is the perfect book to pick up right after finishing Quiet On Set, because McCurdy was also a Nickelodeon actor, and she touches on her negative experiences on set, though the majority of the book is focused on her relationship with her mother.

Little Girl Lost coverLittle Girl Lost cover

Little Girl Lost by Drew Barrymore with Todd Gold

Drew Barrymore began acting before her first birthday. By the time she was seven, she was famous for starring in E.T. But being a child in Hollywood also came with a lot of risks, and she began drinking and doing drugs before even reaching her teen years, going to rehab for the first time at 13 years old. In Little Girl Lost, published when she was 15, she tells the story of this time of her life and how she fought for stability and emancipation. This is now out of print and not easy to find, but you can also pick up Wildflower, published in 2015, which includes some essays about her childhood.

True You coverTrue You cover

True You: A Journey to Finding and Loving Yourself by Janet Jackson

Janet Jackson began acting when she was ten, and she was immediately told to lose weight. This book isn’t focused on her time as a child actor, but it does show how growing up in this image-obsessed environment started a lifetime of bad body image and an unhealthy relationship with food. I do want to give content warnings for a lot of discussion of weight and fitness, including “lifestyle tips” — take what’s useful and leave the rest.

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Still Just a Geek by Wil Wheaton

Like Jennette McCurdy, Wil Wheaton was a child actor pushed into the profession. But Wheaton also had the misfortune of playing a character many viewers hated: Wesley Crusher. As a teenager, he endured vitriol from Star Trek “fans” who equated him with his character. He wrote about his experience as a child actor — and later making a name for himself outside of acting — in his 2004 memoir Just a Geek. In 2022, he revisited that memoir and added commentary, republishing the annotated version as Still Just a Geek.

I Don't Belong to You coverI Don't Belong to You cover

I Don’t Belong to You: Quiet the Noise and Find Your Voice by Keke Palmer

You may know Keke Palmer from Scream Queens and Grease Live!, but she’s been performing since she was a kid, landing a record deal at 12. Like True You, this book is meant more as a self-help book than a tell-all, but Keke Palmer draws on her experience with child stardom to offer teens advice on navigating the hurdles of growing up in the 21st century. She discusses how she dealt with things like body image issues, racism, bullying, dating, and more while in the spotlight.

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unSweetined by Jodie Sweetin with Jon Warech

Jodie Sweetin was Stephanie on Full House, one of the most popular and wholesome shows on TV in the ’90s. But in this memoir, she describes the weight of growing up on TV. She turned to drugs to cope, which became a methamphetamine addiction. She describes her low points as well as her cycle of quitting and relapsing before getting sober when she became a mother.

Sorry Not Sorry coverSorry Not Sorry cover

Sorry Not Sorry by Naya Rivera

Naya Rivera was best known for her role as Santana in Glee, but she had been acting since she was an infant. In her memoir, she writes about the highs and lows of child stardom as well as the lessons she’s learned along the way — including not being sorry about not getting along with everyone. This is an honest and revealing memoir from a star who was gone too soon.

Looking for more? Take this quiz to get a book recommendation about the dark side of celebrity culture. You might also like these must-read books about actors, and these different fictional takes on Hollywood.

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