Title: Drowning Instinct
Author: Ilsa J Bick
Genre: Young Adult
Publisher: Quercus Books
Publication Date: 1st February 2012
Goodreads Summary: 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.
As soon as I read the summary for this book, I knew that it was something I just had to read. The summary that I read was not the Goodreads one above, but the one from Quercus itself, which is no way near as gripping as the one above which is making me want to read this book all over again!
Drowning Instinct is written retrospectively as Jenna talks into a recorder about the events that led up to her being interviewed by a police officer, Bob, in the present day. The story begins when Jenna is released from a psychiatric unit where she had been staying for a few months because she used to cut herself. Although the urge is still there, she can resist the temptation and she is enrolled into a good school. Jenna is still the social recluse she always was though and doesn’t make any friends, that is, unless if you count her teacher, Mr Anderson, who seems to have a vested interest in her. I can’t really say more without revealing any spoilers because there are quite a lot of complicated things going on in lots of different characters’ lives simultaneously.
I didn’t particularly like the character Jenna. Sure, I sympathised with her, but I found it hard to relate to her and she’s a rather introverted character, even though it’s written from the first person, so I didn’t really connect with her, but I certainly found her story intriguing. I do like her rather frank way of talking because for a person as psychologically complex as Jenna, clarity is essential. It also made her character seem all the more real and I felt like these events could have actually happened.
All the characters have their flaws and I guess that’s why the story is so messed up which is why I didn’t particularly connect with any of them, apart from perhaps Danielle, Jenna’s enemy, towards the end of the novel. I felt like an outsider watching events unfold or Jenna’s shrink listening to her get everything off her chest, but not really involved. This wasn’t really a bad thing because I think to have involved the reader would have just been too much for my brain to handle because this book deals with some pretty heavy stuff.
Every now and again, Jenna mentions Bob, or ‘Bobby-O’, to remind you that she in fact talking to someone about past events. Sometimes I felt that this was a little forced, but it was effective never-the-less, otherwise I probably would’ve forgotten the purpose of the story. This book does get off to a bit of a slow start, it took me longer than usual to get through a book of this size and I think that’s because the content was just to heavy to read in massive chunks. That said, when I got to the last 100 pages or so, it suddenly got really interesting with lots of twists and turns that I never would’ve expected and the ending is brilliant.
At the end of the book there’s an interview with Ilsa J Bick which is fascinating as you find out why she wrote a story such as this and there’s some background to her thoughts behind character’s actions and such. What is most fascinating about this book is that it doesn’t preach what it thinks is wrong or right, it merely presents an interesting situation in which there are some good things as well as bad things. I liked that this story was quite balanced and to see positives drawn out of some of the traumatic situations that arise in this book is so interesting. I usually don’t like to read books of this nature because they make me feel rather depressed and I read to enjoy myself, but this year I seem to have read rather a lot of them, all of which have been phenomenal, and Drowning Instinct was no different.
All in all, Drowning Instinct is a brilliant book that really gets you thinking about what’s right and what’s wrong and that sometimes the line between the two gets extremely blurry. This is a thought-provoking read that would be of interest to all ages, though perhaps not suitable for younger teens as some there are ‘mature’ themes (by that I don’t mean sex – though, there was a bit of that too).
Many thanks to Alice at Quercus for the review copy!