Review: Drowning Instinct

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Drowning InstinctDrowning Instinct by Ilsa J. Bick
Published by Carolrhoda Lab on February 1, 2012
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 352
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley

There are stories where the girl gets her prince, and they live happily ever after. (This is not one of those stories.)

Jenna Lord’s first sixteen years were not exactly a fairytale. Her father is a controlling psycho and her mother is a drunk. She used to count on her older brother—until he shipped off to Afghanistan. And then, of course, there was the time she almost died in a fire.

There are stories where the monster gets the girl, and we all shed tears for his innocent victim. (This is not one of those stories either.)

Mitch Anderson is many things: A dedicated teacher and coach. A caring husband. A man with a certain... magnetism.

And there are stories where it’s hard to be sure who’s a prince and who’s a monster, who is a victim and who should live happily ever after. (These are the most interesting stories of all.)

Drowning Instinct is a novel of pain, deception, desperation, and love against the odds—and the rules.

Whoa. What an incredibly dark and well-done novel. I have absolutely no doubt that Ilsa J. Bick will come to be recognized alongside authors like Laurie Halse Anderson. She clearly has no problem plumbing the darkest and most terrifying of human emotions. Like Anderson, she also focuses on teens, on the bad stuff – not the shiny vampires and the sweet first loves.

Reading this book…it’s going to hurt. Jenna is incredibly messed up. You learn this up front. She’s spent a year in an institution, put there after it was discovered that she’d been cutting. So yeah, going into it you know her family’s a mess and that she is too, but you don’t know the full extent of it. The awfulness just keeps on rolling; I only wish that there were not people out there who have likely actually lived lives like Jenna’s.

The main plot is about Jenna’s relationship with an older man, her science teacher Mr. Anderson. Obviously, this too is a completely dark and forbidden thing. At the outset, you don’t know what’s going on exactly, but you definitely have your suspicions and you’re pretty sure it’s bad. Bick does an amazing job of highlighting the difficulties of understanding such a case.

Nothing in this book is black and white. For one thing, Jenna is not an especially reliable narrator. It’s hard to know how much of what she believes to be true is actually true. Such realizations can be just as mind-blowing as reading through the book itself is. I got completely sucked into her story and to seeing from her point of view. Then, when I would step back and think about it, I had to face the fact that things may not be what they seem at all.

Fans of Laurie Halse Anderson or Patricia McCormick will love undoubtedly love this book. Do not read it without due preparation: i.e. tissues and/or something super sappy and happy to help you recover afterwards.

2 responses to “Review: Drowning Instinct”

  1. rachchan2006 says:

    I’ve really wanted to read Drowning Instinct for a while now, but your review has made me even more excited and jittery for it! While I DO like reading my more lighthearted, happy books I also love ‘dark’ novels as well (if they’re well-written). They really put you through the ringer emotionally and although sometimes after reading them, you feel really depressed and a little empty inside (or is that just me?), it’s only because it was such a great, well-written book. Anyway, a great review!

  2. I love Ilsa J. Bick. I really enjoyed this book. Great review!

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