Michelle, the Bookshelf Stalker Queen of the Undead's Reviews > Drowning Instinct

Drowning Instinct by Ilsa J. Bick
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's review
Apr 25, 2012

it was ok
Read from April 11 to 19, 2012

You can read my review at badassbookreviews.com (tomorrow) or below...

If you are reading my review, let me first start off with a small disclaimer, I seem to be the only one in the entire book universe that disliked this book. In fact, most reviews speak of how much they loved Drowning Instinct. I encourage everyone to read those reviews before you make any decisions on whether this book is right for you.

I had so many issues with this book. But I am going to attempt to keep them down to a minimum. However, notice I said "attempt". Let the issues begin...

Jenna is so clumsy at the beginning.

There was at least three separate incidents at the school where she is walking into doors, tripping in the hallway, spilling her food/coffee all over herself, and in general making a complete mess of herself. You would think she couldn't put one foot in front of another. We are supposed to believe that Jenna, this elegant, graceful, long distance runner, is suddenly clumsy? I don't think so. Instead, I think the author needed a way to put Jenna together with Mr. Anderson.

Jenna's in-patient mental hospital treatment records were released to her school without her knowledge!

I do not know Wisconsin law. Let me repeat this, I do not know Wisconsin law. However, I cannot imagine any school having rightful access to a student's in-patient mental hospital records. I know what some of you are saying...maybe the parents authorized the release of the records. This is completely contrary to Jenna's father's previous actions. He wanted Jenna to go to this high school in an effort for her to fit in, and move on, from her problems. Why would her dad allow the school to access something he wanted everyone to forget?

The parents do not trust Jenna at all but suddenly, they are willing to leave her for not just a few hours, or a few days, but for an entire week.

Earlier, just before the parents leave Jenna for the week, they wouldn't even let her lock her own bathroom door. In fact, there is one scene where Jenna is hiding in the bathroom behind a locked door. Jenna at this point talks about how her mom, once she leaves the bathroom, will inspect her body for signs of cutting. That is how extreme the parents mistrusted Jenna. I can't believe Jenna's parents would go from complete mistrust to complete freedom. Ok, I know, I know, there was one itty bitty line about how Jenna thought her parents could suddenly leave her for a week because they didn't care about her anymore. But that doesn't hold up and that cannot be used to validate the author's decision to do a quick switch. First, we already know that Jenna's father doesn't really care for Jenna. That has not changed. He doesn't trust Jenna. There is no way in hell he would let Jenna stay in the house for a week alone. Not because he worried about Jenna but because he didn't trust Jenna in HIS house around HIS stuff. And Jenna's mother called Jenna every single day when the parents were gone. If the parents didn't care, and that was the real reason they could leave Jenna, then why would Jenna's mom speak so lovingly to Jenna each and everyday. Trust me, if a parent doesn't care about you, you do not hear from them at all. Again, I think the author, the medical professional she is, managed to show how cutting causes parents not to trust their kids alone. Except there is one problem, the author, the story teller she is not, didn't know how to advance her own story after setting up this issue in this manner.

And before I officially leave this issue, the parents took a week long VACATION from Jenna. It was sickeningly sweet. Numerous calls from Jenna's mom made it clear to Jenna (which in turn, made it clear to the reader) that Jenna's mom and dad were in romantic throws of love, lust, and passion. Sound perfect right? Wrong. Before this infamous week, Jenna's dad was screwing everything with a vagina (except the mom) and Jenna's mom was suspected of screwing someone as well. Not only were they cheating on each other, but Jenna's parents really disliked each other. I don't get this sudden switch. It just doesn't work!

And really, one final thought on this week long vacation (I may need the author's psychiatric services after this review- I'm feeling a bit OCD here), dad is a surgeon, mom owns a bookstore with just one other employee. Before this imfamous week, dad was always on-call, mom worked like a billion hours, but suddenly they can extend a weekend away into a week away?

Ok, seriously, I'm done on that issue! I'm sorry. I promise I got it all out of my system!

The clues were way too obvious!

Warning- this might have some spoilers. Read at your own risk.

I was at 25% when I figured out the situation about the brother. All the clues were obvious. Mom and Jenna saw Jenna's brother off when he left for the war. But at the 25% mark, Jenna has to hide the fact that she is emailing her brother because she says both her mom and dad would not like it. Her mom has a raging drinking problem, dad is full of anger, and there is no indications that Jenna's brother ever lived in the house or even visited. Furthermore, Jenna never talks about receiving a recent email. I'm sure you figured out why based on my summary above but if not, here it is (view spoiler).

The obvious clues don't stop there. Mr. Anderson's wife was a cutter. Jenna is a cutter. Mr. Anderson wanted to be a marine biologist, Jenna is doing a project on a marine biologist. Mr. Anderson is a runner, Jenna is a runner. Mr. Anderson's brother is off in the Middle East and well, you guessed it. With all the coincidences, I thought the author was either setting this story up in a ridiculous, unrealistic manner or someone was lying. We already know what is in Jenna's head since we are in there with her (even though she was not the most reliable narrator) so my conclusion... Mr. Anderson is lying his ass off to get with Jenna. I didn't need the end of the story to tell me I was right. The clues made it obvious. Since I felt this way from almost the beginning (when the coincidences were starting to appear in the story), I never felt anything remotely sympathetic towards Mr. Anderson. I thought he was a horrible person just based on his lies. As the story progresses, his actions prove me right.

Some other stuff that bugged me

I swear I didn't set out to pick on this book. In fact, it's a hard thing to do with an audiobook since you can't see the details and reread them. However, the stuff that bugged me in this book, really bugged me and there was plenty.

There is this one scene where Jenna is talking about how she is watching someone make a Turkey Roll, how the Turkey is being de-boned while the skin stays in tact. Nothing wrong with that, right? Well, nothing wrong with that until there is a big fight about THE DRUMSTICKS! Please tell me if I'm wrong but the turkey roll I remember as a child, did not have drumsticks.

Bobby, Bob, Bobbie-O. Jenna was talking into a tape recorder and constantly changed the way she said the detective's name. It was so annoying that I literally cringed every time. It also seemed extremely disrespectful.

And speaking of the above-mentioned detective, there is a scene later in the book where he has a conversation with Jenna that was so inappropriate (I'm not talking about sexually inappropriate but wrong place, wrong time) and was legally just wrong. Of course, again, I don't know Wisconsin law but I'm going to take a wild guess and say that a detective wouldn't be allowed to speak to a minor the way the detective did in the hospital.


When a story centers around a girl's psychological being, you might want to make her somewhat realistic. Jenna was not a character. She was a textbook of issues. It was like the author wrote up a recipe for the perfect screwed up girl and then created the story around the issues. It didn't work for me.

Oh and don't get me started on Mr. Anderson. Just don't. Is there a word limit on this thing? I'll try for short and sweet, I didn't like him, I felt no sympathy for him. I don't know what the author intended the reader to feel, but the only thing I wanted to feel for him was him gasping for his last breath!

One final note- the narrator on the audiobook is fantastic. She handles male voices with such ease. Very convincing.
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Reading Progress

0.0% "have no clue what is up with my recent trend of contemporary-dying-or-seriously-screwed-up-teen books I've been reading. hmmmm...oh well, I'll roll with it. I did not like the other book I read by the same author so hopefully this one will go better."
5.0% "Damn this girl is clumsy. It's also convenient to move a story along... crash into door, teacher, make a fool of yourself, get pity. Hope the story improves. Not sure so far."
25.0% "I'm waiting and waiting for something to happen. So far, we've managed to crack all the issues.... drinking, cutting, isolated girl vs. popular girl, the-might-be-too-nice teacher, the cheating dad, physical scars from fire, and so on and so on. However, we have no story, yet. I'm waiting."
25.0% "oh and talk about foreshadowing... let's set this up... mom & jenna initially saw bro off before he went off to war, now... mom has drinking problem and jenna has to hide when she emails her bro from a ghost server because her parents (not just dad but mom too) would freak if they found out she was still emailing bro. She emails him everyday but no indication of emails back. let me guess why??? hmmmm.." 2 comments
49.0% "What.The.Hell please get to an actual story line. pretty please!"
52.0% "Great Narrator for this audiobook. She is the reason I continue since the book is driving me batty!"
52.0% "Bob, Bobby, Bobby-o. Did this not bother anyone else?" 1 comment
55.0% "Jenna is a runner, Mr. Anderson is a runner, Jenna has a report on a marine biologist, Mr. Anderson happened to begin school wanting to study marine biology (even was attacked by sharks), Jenna is a cutter, Mr. Anderson's wife is/was a cutter, Jenna almost raped, who's there to save her...any guess?"
65.0% "I'm absolutely convinced I'm reading a different book than everyone else. I'm forcing myself to finish since there has to be something I'm missing." 5 comments
75.0% "Mitch Anderson... takes advantage of a 16 year old girl who is clearly damaged. I don't care how nice, or well meaning he is/was, the guy is disgusting."
80.0% "OMG, he called his child (stillborn) an "it" and a "monster", yet he is screwing a 16 year old student of his. Someone needs a reality check." 1 comment
95.0% "Still have major, major issues with book but the last 5% has calmed me down a bit."
03/24 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-22 of 22) (22 new)

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Aleeeeeza :O

well. this sure sucks.

Michelle, the Bookshelf Stalker  Queen of the Undead Aleeza wrote: ":O

well. this sure sucks."

I see you liked it!

Aleeeeeza Michelle, the Bookshelf Stalker wrote: "Aleeza wrote: ":O

well. this sure sucks."

I see you liked it!"

i did! i got really sucked into the story and really dug the themes.

Reynje Great review Michelle - we felt differently but you raise some really good points. And yeah, I hated Mr Anderson too :)

Michelle, the Bookshelf Stalker  Queen of the Undead Reynje wrote: "Great review Michelle - we felt differently but you raise some really good points. And yeah, I hated Mr Anderson too :)"

My hatred is why I raised my overall rating from 1 to 2 stars. It convinced me that I did feel something for one of the characters even if it was just hatred!

Reynje Michelle, the Bookshelf Stalker wrote: "Reynje wrote: "Great review Michelle - we felt differently but you raise some really good points. And yeah, I hated Mr Anderson too :)"

My hatred is why I raised my overall rating from 1 to 2 star..."

Haha! Well, I usually take strong feelings as an indication that the book is doing something right..

Michelle, the Bookshelf Stalker  Queen of the Undead Reynje wrote: "Haha! Well, I usually take strong feelings as an indication that the book is doing something right..."


Michelle, the Bookshelf Stalker  Queen of the Undead {jordyn}♥ Zombielicious♥ wrote: "Awesome review! I'm not sure if this is my type of book but I guess I'll look into it. Fyi I'm from WI and yes they do have access to mental hospital records. Mostly the principal and guidance coun..."

I was wondering about that. I don't know if they would give access in this manner though, it was unnecessary non-health related reasons.

You should definitely check it out. One of the reasons I put my disclaimer in there was I worried my feelings about this book were really extreme and maybe I was being a bit too picky.

message 9: by Andi (new) - added it

Andi I tried reading this, but it didn't hold my interest. At least you got through the whole thing!

Michelle, the Bookshelf Stalker  Queen of the Undead it was difficult to do!

message 11: by rameau (new)

rameau So, there was a huge change, almost a near turn around in the half way of this book? Didn't this author do the same thing with her other novel, Ashes?

Michelle, the Bookshelf Stalker  Queen of the Undead rameau wrote: "So, there was a huge change, almost a near turn around in the half way of this book? Didn't this author do the same thing with her other novel, Ashes?"

Well in this one, you knew what was coming (or at least I did) but yeah, she likes her quick turns!

message 13: by rameau (new)

rameau There's nothing wrong with quick turns, in theory, but they need to be done well.

message 14: by rameau (new)

rameau Also, my previous comment, sense very little does it make.

Rebecca ♥ Matrim, Kishan, Magnus ♥ I havent read this and I dont plan too. I am surprised this is the only negative review I see. I find the subject very disturbing. Unless this book was meant as a warning...?

Cassy Wow...this review totally voiced all the things I was feeling about this book......When i was done, i wasn't sure whether to give this book 5 stars or 1...its one of those you either love it or you hate it...i keep going back and forth! :) And yes, I hate Mr. Anderson...i think he's a total predator!

margiecakes Absolutely agreed with everything you said, right down to loving the audiobook narrator. The problem with this book is that the narrator is TOO unreliable. There needs to be enough truth slid in for the reader to piece together what really happened, or at least decide on the truth that works for them. Gillian Flynn writes awesome unreliable narrators, where inconsistencies are built into the character and into the story so as to create just enough ambiguity to keep you tantalized. The narrator of this tale is so unreliable you can't believe anything, and if that's the 'out' for flaws, that's just cheap writing. I couldn't tell what was an inconsistency and what was a lie, and that's just sloppy, really.

message 18: by T (new) - rated it 5 stars

T All I am going to say is I thought the clumsy part was completely believable. Jenna maybe be a fantastic runner, which is a solo sport, but we all know she has social issues which makes her being clumsy around other people completely believable to me.

message 19: by Iva (new) - rated it 3 stars

Iva ***May contain spoilers***

Interesting review. I've just finished this book. I agree with some of your points, especially how Jenna's parents left her alone for a whole week. I was wondering too what was going on there. Is it normal to leave your 16-year old daughter alone for several days when normally you don't feel OK even when she locks her door when she's showering?
As for her bumping into things & people at the beginning, it didn't make me think about her as particularly clumsy. It just felt a little weird & over the top. Or unimaginative?
1 thing I didn't get was why Danielle didn't like her from the start (I'm still not sure if I missed something). Did she know her medical history & is that why she said the more broken they are, the more he likes them? Why was she so jealous?
I liked the book overall (hence the 3 stars) but I found some sections of the book little odd & not flowing completely naturally. Anyway, questions remain...

message 20: by Lee (new) - rated it 1 star

Lee Jass I wish I had seen this before I read it because I shared all of your views

message 21: by Nahla (new) - rated it 1 star

Nahla Khayyatt Guess I don't have to write a review of my own, every single thing you said was on point.

Paulette R You're definitely not the only one who didn't enjoy this book. It was ridiculous, and I almost stopped reading it so many times. I wish I had. Bobby-O?? Please.

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