The best books leave you a little unsure at the end -- was there a bad guy? Was there a good guy? Or were there just people, rotating around each otheThe best books leave you a little unsure at the end -- was there a bad guy? Was there a good guy? Or were there just people, rotating around each other, picking off what they can until they're satisfied?
Told from Jenna Lord's perspective as she holds a tape recorder, to Bob, the man assigned to her case, we get a huge story. Jenna's had a rough life, and it doesn't get much easier as time goes on. Her Dad's emotionally abusive, her mother's an alcoholic, her brother's been shipped off to Afghanistan, and she nearly died in a fire, years ago. This leaves poor Jenna to cope with her world, and she does so through self-injury. Her cutting is discovered by her parents, who ship her off to a psychiatric hospital. Now Jenna's having a hard time developing outside of the ward, cautious and disconnected from her world. At times, you almost feel her desperation to go back to it, because it's what she knows.
But by her very first day at school, Jenna runs into Mr. Anderson, the charismatic teacher who just so happens to also be the track coach. Since one of Jenna's coping mechanisms is running, her interest is piqued, but she's hesitant to have any involvement in it. Right off the bat, there's a character who tries to befriend her (David), but Jenna doesn't want none of that. Instead, she skulks off by herself, trying to get through with good grades.
Her attention is sucked in by Mr. Anderson, who recruits her as one of his TA's. From that point forward, they start spending a lot of time together -- in class, and then eventually, out of class for morning runs. Inevitably, Jenna finds herself at Mr. Anderson's house after she cramps up during a longer run, and she comes face-to-face with a photograph the reveals an interesting part of Mr. Anderson that no one else at school, or seemingly in his life, knows. It roots Jenna to him, and their connection grows at an even faster rate from there, until he pins her down and pulls out a hard truth that Jenna's been avoiding -- a lie she's been living, ignoring, pretending isn't true.
Things snowball from there until lie, truth, and hardship after hardship are exposed. We feel so much for Jenna, want to hug her and tell her it's going to be okay, want to pull her away from the awful things happening in her life (like her father ignoring her being assaulted in her own home), and put her on the right path.
The strengths in Drowning Instincts are so, so many. The writing is beautiful, on that border leaning toward literary. What helps give it that extra push, I believe, is the fact that you are reminded now and then that Jenna is narrating this verbally. Such strong, powerful words and phrases come from this child that you can't help but feel a little more for her. And even though there's so much that goes on, even in the side-plot, at no point does it feel like the author is trying to juggle too much at once. All of the little details are strung together, woven perfectly. It's rare to find so much going on in a book where it all feels like it belongs, but Drowning Instinct covers so much while remaining poised the whole time.
What will stay with the reader, as I mentioned first, is the lingering feeling that you're not sure if there's a bad guy, here. Mr. Anderson, the teacher, is clearly doing things he shouldn't be doing. The time he spends with Jenna is incredibly questionable. But Jenna's doing her fair share of manipulation, whether it's knowingly or not. And the two circle one another so delicately at first that you might even want it to happen. Jenna's drawn in by the first adult she thinks she can trust, the first adult to take an interest in her well-being. Mr. Anderson is challenged by a young girl who needs his help and attention, who needs his strength to guide her. But just the same, we know there's something very wrong going on.
The problem with having an unreliable narrator is that you can't pinpoint the details that have been truthfully embellished, and so you'll never really know. Mr Anderson shows up at some awfully convenient times, rescuing Jenna. Did she need to be rescued, or was it planned that way? Jenna even acknowledges how peculiar some of the coincidental timing in this is, which raises suspicions even more, in the end. One of Jenna's secrets is something you might see coming from the very start -- I did, at least -- but it doesn't actually lessen the impact of when it's finally brought into the open. And at times, the dialogue between Jenna and Mr. Anderson can get feel so hokey, specifically with the word "sweetheart" littered throughout. It's hard to imagine anyone really talking like that for such an extended period of time.
But you're still left with that questioning feeling, and it might be enough to make you go back and read the book again, just to see what you might have missed. If you like darker YA reads, I'd very much recommend this one. There are elements in it that would appeal to a lot of different people, and it's a book that you can easily find yourself getting swept up in. I borrowed this from the library, but I know I'll be buying myself a copy down the road. ...more
I really, really wanted to like this book, but I think it lacked a certain depth that would have made it stand out more. There's more to people than tI really, really wanted to like this book, but I think it lacked a certain depth that would have made it stand out more. There's more to people than their circumstances, and I'm also not sold on what happened.
More than that, I was completely turned off by the most random tossing in of Spanish words. It disconnected me from the story and threw me out every time, and I speak Spanish. But the phrases and words chosen aren't the ones that should have made it into the book, if that makes sense.
I'm growing frustrated with books that are primarily in English and toss in a few Spanish word to sound "authentic."...more
So, I didn't realize that this one was by Jennifer Echols until I was halfway through it. I've figured that her books aimed at older YA readers are aSo, I didn't realize that this one was by Jennifer Echols until I was halfway through it. I've figured that her books aimed at older YA readers are a lot better, and the newer ones are better than her older ones.
I'm so sick of seeing a chubby girl lose weight so she fits in. So, unbelievably sick of it. She lost thirty pounds to try out for majorettes even though she didn't think she'd get a spot, then she continued to lose weight, then continued... and sure, that's realistic, but it hit a bad chord with me because her personality and behavior didn't match up....more
Cat Clarke's writing is something I can't believe I hadn't gotten down with before. After reading Torn, I searched high and low for Entangled. She's iCat Clarke's writing is something I can't believe I hadn't gotten down with before. After reading Torn, I searched high and low for Entangled. She's immensely talented, and has this knack for creating girls who are troubled in all the "right" ways that lend them to being awesome narrators. It might take you a while to get into this one because of the setup, essentially a "journal" format that gets broken up every now and then at the worst time, or at a really integral time to the plot.
Grace is a girl who carries a lot of secrets and pain. She's wound up in some kind of ultra-white prison with a guard keeping an eye on her. There are times when she completely freaks out, times when she dreams, times when she's simply lonely and desperate for someone, anyone to talk to. This is a reflection of her time outside this prison as well. Grace has got the one, solitary great friend, Sal that pretty much every troubled young girl in the YA world has. Sal is the person who brings out the best, and ultimately the worst, in Grace (as best friends usually do). Their friendship becomes strained and intense, and after a gigantic blow-out fight, the two of them drift apart for a while. Sal blames Grace for goading her into sleeping with someone, which has ultimately lead to her pregnancy.
Poor Grace is left to deal with her lonely life for a while. She doesn't get along with her mother very well, and she has one thing that she consistently turns to: cutting. I find that it's really difficult to deal with the "issue" of cutting. Given the fact that it happens so much, I find startlingly few YA books that handle it without making the entire story about that. I liked the fact that Entangled didn't make cutting into Grace's "issue" and spend the entire book handling it. It's one of the things that made this all the more realistic. The same with her occasional substance abuse -- they are facets of her character, they are a part of her downward spiral as a whole, but they are not the thing that defines her. Others might have a hard time with the fact that it's not deeply dissected and the "moral" behind the story isn't readily available. But that's not what this book was meant to be about, and I totally like that.
Along comes the dreamy Nat, who Grace falls in love with quickly. I don't mean it in a way where they make eye contact and it's meant-to-be, but rather she develops feelings for him quickly, and they start a cute little relationship because neither of them seems to have anything more interesting going on. He's interested in everything about her, right down to why she and Sal no longer hang out. And somewhere in the midst of it all, Sal comes back around. She's had an abortion, and she's working on figuring her life out now. She apologizes to Grace for the blow-out they had before, and makes it clear that she wants to fix things between them.
While you're getting the bits and pieces of the past few months of Grace's life, you're trying to figure out what the hell is going on with her in that white room. It's unsettling at times, because we're told of instances where she has the ability to leave -- the person watching the door isn't holding her back -- but Grace is altogether terrified of what happens if she leaves, and has to confront what's outside. She holes up inside of herself again, and Grace's writing goes back to being less streamlined, more disjointed. It shows a lot of talent on Cat Clarke's behalf, and the writing really is one of the things that makes this book stand out. As we're drawing to the climax of the book, things get so much more tense and frustrating. People aren't always who they say they are, and in Grace's case, finding that out could easily become what sends her right over the edge.
I felt so strongly for Grace throughout the book, although I imagine her behavior might be something that frustrates others. She's very much a teenager in that she has some outlandish reactions to things, but I loved her just the same. If you like your books a little darker, but always with a thread and sense of hope, I think you might like Entangled....more