Book Review : Drowning Instinct by Ilsa J. Bick
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.
A Sneak Peek Into The Story :
Jenna wakes up in a hospital, body shaking and half frozen. Despite the half dozen blankets that are wrapped around her, she is still shivering. As her eyes and ears slowly focuses on her surroundings, memories of what happened that leads her up to this moment flows back into her. It was then that she notice a policeman standing beside her, saying something that Jenna has yet to make sense.
She blinked. Again. And again.
Just tell the truth. The truth can’t hurt, the policeman – whose name was Bob Pendleton – urges. Jenna says nothing, her eyes fixates at a place far away as memories of him plays like a movie in her head. This is all her fault. She is to blame for this, she ––
Jenna jolts when she feels someone touches her hand. Bob. His touch is warm, which she is grateful for since her whole body is ice cold. She wants to absorb this warmth and just sleep. Just go to sleep forever and never wake up again. But the police officer, Bob, seems to be very determined to get an answer out of her as he continues to blab on more words Jenna is only half paying attention to.
Now focusing on Bob-the-policeofficer, a sudden thought strikes through Jenna. Is she under arrest? Maybe Bob-the-policeofficer has come not to ask her Jenna questions, but instead to make sure that she doesn’t run away. Is she going to jail? Is that why Bob is here? Jenna opens her mouth to ask the question, to which Bob said no. Bob said she did nothing wrong. That in all of this, Jenna is the victim. And Bob needs her to tell him the truth. About what happened.
“Tell is such an interesting word. There are so many meanings.
There’s telling, like spinning a tale, making up stories.
I’m good at that.”
Is she really the victim in all of this? Before Jenna can think more about that though, Bob fetches out a tiny digital recorder that is not bigger than a pack of gum from his pocket and hand it to her.
Talk into that, as much as you want. Okay?
Jenna nods. Okay. Bob wants the truth. The whole, unfiltered truth. She stares at the digital recorder in her hand, her mind again, wanders back to him. The room is quiet. Beyond this room, in the larger trauma bay where there was chaos and urgency and motion not a few minutes earlier, has grown silent too. Jenna blinks, forcefully willing the tears to go away. Slowly, she scans the room one more time, taking in the silence and tranquility, knowing nothing will be the same from here on out, and push the record button.
“You’re going to want black and white, Bob, right and wrong. I’m not sure I can give that to you. That’s the problem with the truth. Sometimes the truth is ambiguous, or a really bad cliché.
But this is the truth, Bob: I’m a liar.
And my reality—my story—begins with Mr. Anderson.”
The Review :
I have been drowning in the mud and filth that is book slump for a good two months. Which explains the lack of reviews. I have gone through so many books, and DNF-ed almost all of it. Needless to say, the experience had not been fun. I have tried everything. From reading Male/Male books to Male/Female books. I have tried every single genre that holds my interest, yet nothing I did managed to defeat this slump.
Until this book.
Until Drowning Instinct.
I can honestly say, this book took my breath away – my wig would have been snatched too if I had one.
At first I was really skeptical about starting it as the writing was totally different from what I was used to reading. Instead of chapters, the story is written like how one would write a movie scene. It was short, sharp and precise. Any extra details that did not add value to the story was omitted, unlike the ones that I was used to, where the narrator would go and describe everything to the umpteenth detail.
While it did took me some time to adjust to it, once I did though, I went through the book like a madwoman. I simply cannot stop. I kid you not, the story is that addicting.
“But I thought that I might want him to watch me; to stand there, stopwatch in hand, and be completely focused on only me.”
The narrator, Jenna, is a 16 year old girl who has just enrolled into Turing high school after being discharged from psych ward. Her dad, who she calls Psycho-dad, insist that it is a good idea to have her go to a public school. When Jenna tries to argue that she will be better off being homeschooled, Pyscho-Dad’s response was that he – being a plastic surgeon – is busy 7 days a week. And her mother too, who already has her hands full with managing the bookstore. Simply put : nobody has the time to babysit her.
Even her shrink was in on it. Her shrink, Rebecca, also agreed – albeit begrudgingly – with Pyscho-Dad that she needs to spend more time around kids her own age who doesn’t have serious problems. Saying that it is when she is alone that she “run into problems”. Jenna wanted to argue that it was at school where she started cutting, but knowing she isn’t going to win this battle, she kept quiet.
So there she is, at quarter past six in the morning, standing in the semi-dark of a strange high school, and wondering what to do. Seeing that there is still barely anyone there yet, Jenna decides to walk around and familiarize herself with the school. That is when she heard music floating down from the second floor. Without Jenna realizing, her feet has slowly brought her closer towards the source of music. It is soulful and bittersweet, which makes her wonder even more.
Who comes to school this early? Maybe a teacher who wants to get a jump on the first day of classes? Maybe Jenna should just leave whoever it is alone, since they seem to be enjoying the silence and their music. But Jenna has always been a curious girl, and that same curiosity pushes her forward. Inching her closer and closer to the only classroom that is brightly lit. And it is right at that moment where she immediately stop dead in her tracks as her eyes landed on him.
“Our gazes met. I don’t know why, but we both went still. Neither of us looked away, and there was something there.
I know he felt it because I saw some emotion chase across his face. ”
I think out of everything, it is the narration of this story that I love the most. One of the reasons why I stopped reading Young Adult genres is because sometimes, the narrator’s voice came out very whiny and shallow. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with that. It is just something that I, personally, do not enjoy reading.
“Anyone looking would think I have this perfect, fairy-tale life: money, land, a lovely house. But all that’s surface stuff. It’s like watching someone on the water who you think is fine because there’s no fuss, no screaming, when, really, the guy’s about twenty seconds away from drowning.”
With Drowning Instinct though, Ilsa J.Bick truly managed to pull it off. She created a character that is both mature, refreshing, yet still acts her age. While Jenna is what one would call privileged, what with the parents’ wealth and all that, truly, her family is batshit crazy. From parents who fight almost religiously, to her mother’s drinking problems and her father’s not-so-secret affair with the hospital’s nurses, I think she handles herself pretty well.
She is sarcastic, yet vulnerable. Cynical, yet hopeful. All of that contrast was written in such a way that makes Jenna come to life right before my eyes. The story-telling is truly intense, so much so that when I was reading Drowning Instinct, I was so immersed into the story that I forgot all about my surroundings.
The Verdict :
As much as I love, adore and covet this book, I must say, Drowning Instinct is not for everyone. If you are someone who needs to have a HEA in the books you read, then maybe this one isn’t for you. But, if you are looking for a story that can make you sit on the edge of your seat and make you question which is up, down, right and left, then definitely give this book a go. It will blow your mind.
Drowning Instinct is made up of gray areas, as the author’s intention was to present a situation in which there are no stereotypical predators or victims. And she truly deserves all the standing ovations I can give because she did a spectacular job pulling off a taboo story such as this.
“Mitch’s eyes found me and held on. “Jenna,” he said, and he put everything into that one word. He put in a lifetime.”