Oct 7, 2012

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.

Holy. Hell. What an emotional ride.. I think I experienced every possible feeling a human being can have reading this little heartbreaker.

"They call it the drowning instinct. It's when drowning doesn't look like drowning. ... you don't look like you're in trouble. You don't scream, but that's because you can't... You're just there, so people don't notice your dying. ..."

I read it practically in one sitting ~ unable to put it down ~ and I remember looking up from it from time to time, catching the breathe I didn't realize I was holding, and shaking my head in disbelief as if the movement would knock the shock out of me.

There are some very controversial elements in this story ~ factors that have seemed to influence some readers to give this book a more negative review. An older man. A teenage girl. High school teacher. Troubled student. Sounds like a recipe for disaster ~ or at least some jail time. But, although situations like this would ordinarily cause me to cringe, I actually felt... hope?... for these two tragically broken people...

The story is told in Jenna's voice as she "confesses" the truth of an incident into a policeman's tape recorder.. And from the very start, it's made completely clear that she is... damaged... Jenna has been ~ nearly literally ~ through Hell, back, Hell, and back again... Her family is a well-masked mess, and she has the horrific urge to release her pain through seeing her own blood seep from her skin ~ she's a cutter, but she's trying not to be...

She moves to a new school ~ one she thought would be like any other, until she meets Mitch...er...Mr. Anderson. It begins innocent enough. A well intentioned teacher trying to help one of his students thrive... so when does it come to the point where it crosses the line? The thing is, Mitch is just as torn apart, and he sees a mirror image of his broken heart in Jenna.... They seem to feel that they pull strength from each other's tragedies... but, at the same time, they destroy each other and themselves...

This book is almost overwhelming at times.. Jenna is struck hard with one obstacle after another ~ it's amazing she's able to hold on at all.. A drunken mother and Psycho Dad ~ parents who are too busy with their own dysfunctional relationship to see what is happening with their daughter. A pedophile for a grandfather, a brother away at war... and in the middle of all that, her beacon of hope, Mitch Anderson... the only one who sees her and brings her the truth.. or does he?

The writing is poetic and Jenna's voice distinct in its resigned tone. Not a light read with its elements of self-destruction, denial, and betrayal.. But oh-so-worth your time..

Five out of five stars from this reader.

Happy Reading Everyone :)

~ Keely ~

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