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Drowning Instinct

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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.

352 pages, Hardcover

First published February 1, 2012

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About the author

Ilsa J. Bick

63 books1,584 followers
Among other things, I was an English major in college and so I know that I'm supposed to write things like, "Ilsa J. Bick is ." Except I hate writing about myself in the third person like I'm not in the room. Helloooo, I'm right here . . . So let's just say that I'm a child psychiatrist (yeah, you read that right)as well as a film scholar, surgeon wannabe (meaning I did an internship in surgery and LOVED it and maybe shoulda stuck), former Air Force major—and an award-winning, best-selling author of short stories, e-books, and novels. Believe me, no one is more shocked about this than I . . . unless you talk to my mother.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 795 reviews
Profile Image for karen.
3,968 reviews170k followers
April 2, 2019
this is a karen-four, and maybe not-four-everyone four.


i mean, most people would just write a couple of books out of that. not ilsa j. bick!she just goes for it, full throttle.

and for the most part, it works.

i read this book straight through, all page-turning and groaning and needing to know what else could possibly happen. a lot did, my friends. a lot.

the structure of this book, which is a sort of audio confession into a policeman's recorder thingie on the evening of an incident, makes the story incredibly fast-paced, but of course only gives us one side of the story. a damaged side. but what a great voice this character has! and i kind of want to blame any inconsistencies of other-character-behavior on her - on her being an unreliable narrator, but it might just be wide-eyed trust and me liking the book enough to overlook how parents can go from not letting this girl shower with the door closed and inspecting her for new cuts every single day to just booking out of town for a week without a thought about possible hazards. for example. there are a couple of "whaaaa??" moments like that, and i will just say "that's what happens when you have an unreliable narrator, son." and hope that that's true.

but - yeah. these are very nuanced characters who don't always behave the way you think they would/should. and that's pretty great in YA books - i love to see that. and even though sometimes you feel like, "AND that?? AND this??," the snowballing is more fun than unrealistic. fun is definitely not the correct word here. but you know what i mean - gripping?? satisfying? awesome?

dunno - i kind of don't want to say too much about this. but i do recommend it. so.

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come to my blog!
Profile Image for Giselle.
990 reviews6,359 followers
December 4, 2013
Insane! This is the best word to describe Drowning Instinct. Insanely good; insanely terrifying; i-n-s-a-n-e! Ever since I cracked the cover, I can't stop thinking about this book. First, to analyze it, now, to figure out what the heck I've just read. It's the type of book that you just plow through because it makes you so restless that you must keep reading and reading, all the while knowing, just knowing, that the storm is coming. So close it could be right on the next page. Really, it's freaking brilliant! Even though I'm still dumbfounded by it. You'll turn the last page, you'll gasp, you'll think, you'll reminisce. Some may even read it again, though I doubt that would help. Don't get me wrong, the book is far from confusing, it's simply unreal. You just need to read it to understand. It's also the the type of story best enjoyed when you know nothing about it going in. So all I'm going to tell you is this:

Jenna tells us her story. Scratch that. She tells the police her story by way of a tape recorder they give her so she can do it at her own pace. (The format is reminiscent of Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why). While she's telling it, you feel so close to this character it's like you're connected to her. You can hear her intonations, feel the tone of her voice. On top of this, she sounds her age; she sounds like you'd expect her to sound. It makes her so real and most importantly: sincere. Jenna comes off as smart and flawed, she's struggling to find herself. To find someone who will listen and care. Then she does; she finds Mitch- her teacher. We're sent deep into Jenna's thoughts and feelings during this story. So deep that we get easily confused as to who, exactly, is the victim here. Things that you thought you were against, don't seem so wrong anymore. It's not black and white; just like real life. Flawlessly weaved together, the multiple plot lines hypnotizes you so, that you don't realize you've been holding your breath for 45 minutes frantically turning the pages. (What? you can't hold your breath for that long? Well… you will LEARN!).

Do you get it yet? This book is intense! Intense, suspenseful, passionate- all masterfully put together into an incredibly, profound novel.

For more of my reviews, visit my blog at Xpresso Reads
Profile Image for L A i N E Y.
396 reviews672 followers
May 4, 2017
That pain moves when you move; it mutters between every breath; it spikes your ears; it rips. You think pain can’t be any more horrible than that.

Until you discover that the well is bottomless. There’s always more

I swear that quote isn't some slogan for chonic pain. Which was a travesty - it really should have been.

Drowning Instinct:

Dull 'mystery'.
Nice narrator for audiobook though.
And really beautiful cover.
That's everything.

rating: ★¾

Profile Image for Reynje.
272 reviews965 followers
April 20, 2012
“In my experience, the truly evil are few and good people, with the very best intentions, often make very bad decisions and get in way over their heads before they know it. People drown, quietly before our eyes, all the time.” - (Ilsa J Bick in the Acknowledgements of Drowning Instinct)

I can never resist a compelling, unreliable narrator.

There are few literary techniques I find more engaging than a strong, distinct voice – especially one I’m not sure I can trust. And in sixteen-year-old Jenna Lord, Ilsa J Bick has created a razor sharp voice in a story that is anything but clear-cut.

Drowning Instinct puts the reader in the uncomfortable position of listening in on Jenna’s (very) unsettling story, as she dictates it onto a digital recorder for the detective waiting outside the door. She is, in her own words: ”..lucky, a liar, a good girl, a princess, a thief – and a killer.” And what she has to say is not easy to hear.

As Bick herself says, this is a difficult, risky book. It does not present predators and victims in a black and white fashion. There is a great deal of ambiguity and complex content – including, but not limited to: self-harm, alcoholism, sexual and physical abuse, grief, PTSD, suicide and However, what prevents this book from descending into the realm of manipulative tragedy porn is that it does not ask the reader to agree with the choices the characters make. But it does demand that the reader think about them, question them, examine the reasoning and motivations of these damaged people.

From the opening, Drowning Instinct is an intense novel. While the pieces of the story fall into place gradually, with Jenna alternately withholding and revealing information, the pacing never feels slow. Rather, the slightly ominous tone, the sensation that the plot is inexorably drawing towards a shocking conclusion, and the format in which Jenna relates events, keeps the story gripping.

Jenna is an intriguing narrator: intelligent, acerbic, obviously in pain. Her voice is extremely well-executed, balancing her tendency to keep the detective (and thus the reader) at arm’s length, with her raw vulnerability. She is not entirely a sympathetic character – and yet throughout the book all I wanted was for to be able to heal, to find relief. As the layers to her story are revealed, Jenna becomes clearer as a character and her actions are given greater context, which complicates the issue of judging her choices. In this respect, Bick has crafted not only a realistic, complex character – but also developed an interesting dynamic between Jenna and the reader.

There are some plot elements that I felt weakened the believability of the story overall – the biggest example being the dramatic changes in attitude of Jenna’s parents. The abrupt turn-arounds in behaviour are almost whip-lash inducing, and the justification provided feels flimsy. That said, I think it’s worth considering that these parts of the story reflect Jenna as a narrator, and that we are hearing what Jenna herself refers to as her “version” of the truth. Early in the novel, Jenna muses on what it means to tell to the truth – and her inability to provide a black and white story, given the circumstances in which hers unfolds.

This is not a perfect novel, nor is it an easy one. Bick takes a gamble in choosing to tell this particular story in such a conflicted, ambiguous manner. Yet, while Jenna reaches a conclusion at the end of the book – readers are left to form their own. And I believe that rather than trying to convince readers of a particular stance, this book is instead simply urging them to think. To hear a different perspective. But most of all, to understand what compels such broken people to go to such extreme measures to mitigate their pain – whether we support or condemn their actions.
Profile Image for Michelle, the Bookshelf Stalker.
596 reviews358 followers
April 26, 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 .

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.
Profile Image for Aj the Ravenous Reader.
1,005 reviews1,050 followers
September 10, 2016

“Everybody breaks sooner or later…Anyone can drown. Sometimes you see it. Most often you don’t because the body protects and the skin hides, so drowning doesn’t look like drowning and some people scar so nicely.”

No, this isn’t indeed your typical YA contemporary. I should have believed the blurb. Right now I am so tempted to tell you what kind or rather kinds of story this book has in store for you, but I wouldn’t because it’s very important that you find it out yourself and then you’ll understand why I hid that important detail from you. ^^

Everything during the first seventy percent of this book is anchored on a huge, heavy metal question mark. My mind bathed in endless i-feared-unanswerable-questions. What is going on? What are these characters’ motives? Why does every sentence every character says is punctuated with that stubborn and almost annoying question mark? Why is the story narrated by Jenna, a supposedly innocent girl in front of a detective via a recorder? Why are these

inducing-reaction events seem to keep randomly popping up everywhere? It was almost stressful reading it, not to mention the effect of the fast unleashing of events that I had to grapple for some air to breathe.

And then came the last thirty percent of the book and everything dawned on me…

and it all became crystal clear to me the purpose of this brilliant and exceptional author in writing this complex, gripping, disturbing yet provocative masterpiece. Would you dare seek out that purpose?

I highly recommend it.
Profile Image for Stacia (the 2010 club).
1,045 reviews3,935 followers
August 4, 2012
3.5 stars. Deciding whether to round up or down was an extremely hard decision and I'm still not sure why.
I don't want to tell this story and you know why? Because this is a fairy tale with teeth and claws.

Have you ever finished a book and found yourself unsure of what to think? I'm having a hard time wrapping my mind around what I just read. Part of me was intrigued by this story, while part of me is sitting here thinking...wait, what?

"Jenna, please. Please, look at me."
I did - and that's when I realized that eyes really are the window to the soul.
"Don't go," he whispered.

Jenna and Mr. Anderson (Mitch) are a teacher and student who have entered into relationship after realizing that they are the only people who might be able to help one other heal from a broken past. However, each of them happen to be spinning their own web of lies to the point where you start to question what is real and what is not. Is this love real or is there something more sinister at work?

I found myself drawn into the story and the mystery surrounding the past lives of these two before before they found each other. There were several predictable moments along the way and even though I mis-guessed on a couple things, it wasn't hard to figure out the main gist of what was going down. Even with that, I didn't find myself frustrated that there weren't enough big gut punches throughout the book - because the way the story ended threw me for a loop. I was expecting something much more wicked from one of the characters than what I was given. As of right now, I'm not sure how I felt about the way everything came to fruition.

I've read my fair share of student/teacher stories and this one is not like any other I've read...in both a good way and a bad way. If you're looking for a passionate and all-consuming love affair, you're barking up the wrong tree. So much of what's going on revolves around how screwed up these characters' lives are, that the actual love story was not always the focus, even though it did have a big impact on the outcome.
"Jenna," he said, and he put everything into that one word. He put in a lifetime.

It's not hard to see why some people had issues with the book. My friend Rebecca and I were buddy reading this and as we were discussing, she mentioned a couple of inconsistencies which didn't quite match up. The few complaints I had didn't make me dislike the story, but I can see why some of these things would be a stumbling block for readers who like all of their ducks to line up in a row.

My thoughts are a bit twisted, but I will say that the story had me, for better or worse. Okay, so I wasn't initially crazy about the tape-recorder narration, but it worked when everything came to a head. The last sentence of the book changed my feelings about the style of writing. Overall, I think the positives of what was trying to be accomplished in this type of storytelling did outweigh the negatives (although, I would not have complained if the family issues had been limited to one or two things at the most. The problems were a bit too "everything but the kitchen sink" for my liking.). I really was invested in wanting to know what was going to happen.

The author's notes at the back are interesting to read. I appreciated that Bick didn't make excuses for the characters she wrote, nor did she try to make the characters out to be better than they were. She explained that not everything in this world is black and white and sometimes the story just is what it is. In her own words : Reality is Complex.

Am I going to recommend the book? Yes, I think I might...maybe not quite in an enthusiastic cheer-leading kind of way, but if you're looking for something to shake up your routine, Drowning Instinct is probably going to do the job. This is the type of story which would make for an interesting discussion or book club read.
And no one asked questions. No one gave us a second thought. Everyone looked, and no one really saw.

End note : If you're looking for a more black and white teacher/student affair book, I'd go with Boy Toy if you want to read about something that shows the consequences of embarking on such a relationship, or Want if you are wanting to engage on a more romanticized version of this type of story.
Profile Image for Literatures Movies.
435 reviews328 followers
June 14, 2018






Like goddamn.

This book is GOOD. This book is motherfucking GOOD . Like. Like.

I cannot even pinpoint just what it is about this book that had me glued to every single page and every single word. But it sucked me in without problem and I was addicted.

Needless to say, this woman can write. I just.

Man. Let me just say this because currently my brain is fried because I was still trying to cope with the book : There are two kind of books. There are the kind of books that you read and you'll be like, "wow. it's good. wonderfully written." but then those books are not going to be the ones that stay with you. It will be a good read, but that will be all there is to it.

But then, there are the kind of books that stun you. That sucks your breath away. That made you have to sit down and think and just regroup yourself after reading it. Those kind of books are very very rare, and they only come once in a blue moon. And those kind of books? Those kind of books are the one that stays with you for a very very long time

And this book? This book is the latter.

“Please love me, Jenna, please hold me, please save me,” and then he was groaning; his mouth was a fever trailing down my neck, his tongue teasing mine and then my breasts, his hands knotting in my hair, and then we began to move together, and there was nothing but this and this and this and this and him.

“Love me, Jenna, please,” he gasped. “Love me, love me, love me, love me.”

Pre-reading Review :

Fuck it.

Reading the reviews for this book is like sitting on a see-saw.

I saw a 5 star review and then 3 star, and then 5 star and then 2 star.

That's one way to convince someone to read a book I suppose lmao.

You win book. I am adopting you to my TBR shelf.

Blog : Look mom! I have a blog!
Youtube : Self-promo here I come lol
Profile Image for Penny.
717 reviews207 followers
April 26, 2018
Actual Rating 2.5 stars.

It's ok , I liked it just fine, did't love it.

My big problem with this book is that it got tiresome at times (actually, many times).

There are 3 main reason why I found the book tedious sometimes:

1 - There is a lot of pointless information and endless ramblings I wasn't interested in. Too many unnecessary detailed mundane information I have no patience for. Therefore, I skipped some paragraphs from time to time, made the book more fluid and bearable that way.

2 - It takes a long time for the story to start to get interesting enough, or at the very least, it takes a long while for things to start happening.

3 - All the juicy parts are told quite superficially and briskly, which in contrast with the long aimless wanderings Jenna has going on, is not satisfying enough. In a way, I felt cheated, since you would expect something better and greasier after enduring all those dull moments.

In conclusion, by the end of the book I felt deprived of something bigger. Which in my book, is not a good way to finish a book and the main reason why nothing of the positives of the story made their way to my review.
Profile Image for Wendy Darling.
1,521 reviews33.9k followers
September 9, 2014
3.5 stars This is a compelling read, and I appreciate the complexity/moral ambiguity that the author was trying to portray.

I felt very detached from these characters overall, however, and it doesn't help that I found the story to be predictable up until the very end. I can see why this one has stirred up quite a bit of shock, especially with its more titillating elements. I can't help but feel that though the details of the two stories are different, Drowning Instinct has many of the same melodramatic leanings as Tabitha Suzuma's Forbidden. But it doesn't have half the heart.
Profile Image for Jennifer Kyle.
2,341 reviews4,597 followers
March 14, 2018
3.75 Stars

This is an extremely well written book. However the ending, though interesting, was a bit perplexing.

Profile Image for Scarlet.
507 reviews195 followers
December 4, 2013
Review posted on Way Too Hot Books

This book just blew me away!


This book has stolen my attention right from its very first line.
It´s stunning, scary, unpredictable and beautiful.
This book is a definite MUST HAVE!

An older man and a teenage girl. Bittersweet romance. Your first thought must be Lolita? High school teacher and 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 because I´m a school teacher, I actually felt... hope for these two tragically broken people... This is a taboo romance story with student-teacher relationship in which there are no stereotypical predators or victims. These people are damaged, but are they monsters in this book? No, they just made some bad decisions and this sure is their complicated love story. Monsters are some other characters who ruined their lives in the start.

The story is told in Jenna's voice as she "confesses" the truth of an incident into a policeman's tape recorder. Her family is dysfunctional (Psycho dad/cheater, alchocolic mother, grandfather- pedophile, a brother away at war...) and she finds escape in delusions and pain (selfharm). She is a cutter and she spend some time in Psycho ward.
Then she moves to a new school and meets Mr. Anderson. He becomes the only one who sees her and brings her to the truth, but he is just as broken as she is...

" I´d never heard a man cry before, Bob, but...it´s awful. (...) I think some man aren´t used to it and don´t know what to do with all that feeling. Their emotions are hexane ignited in their chests and rips them apart, and then they feel like they´re going to die-just as something was dying, at that moment in Mitch."

Two of them pull strength from each other's tragedies... but, at the same time, they destroy each other and themselves.


“They call it the drowning instinct. It´s when drowning doesn´t look like drowning. In real life, if the water´s very cold, a person can´t help but gasp. It´s reflex. The thing is as soon as water hits your lungs, your throat closes off, even it the water´s warm. Your body´s trying to protect itself, and the reality is that a lot more people suffocate than truly drown. Regardless, to people on land, especially when you´re really close to the end, you don´t look like you´re in trouble. You don´t scream, but that´s because you can ´t, and you don´t wave your arms either or expend a lot of energy flailing. You´re just there. So people don´t notice that you´re drowning. That´s me. I think I´ve been drowning all this time and doing it so quietly, even I didn´t know it.”


My favorite part is the ending:


"You probably want me to regret Mitch. You want me to see that he lied, was some kind of predator; that I´m the victim, like you said. But Mitch was broken, too, in his way and just as much a hostage to his past and his mistakes. Maybe by trying to fix me, he was also healing himself in the only way he knew how.
Oh, I can just hear you now. You and every therapist who ever lived will say that I´m rationalizing, that I´ve identified with a monster, just like those kids do who are kidnapped and live in a cage for twenty years. You´ll want to see me as damaged somehow, and then you´ll try to cure me. Well, I got news for you, Bobby-o.
Cured is just synonym for coming around to your way of thinking.
Cured is the word you use when I finally agree.
But here´s the problem with that, Bobby-o. You and the therapists can yammer until you´re blue in the face, but I just can´t agree with you and probably never will.
Because Mitch gave me love. He handed me back my life and that doesn´t make me a victim."

Ilsa J. Bick has a way with words. This is possibly one of the most emotionally intense books I have ever read. This story has a bittersweet romance and a plot that leads you on an emotional roller coaster.

I recommend it to anyone who wants to read something that is neither black nor white, but just like the real life, very very grey.
Profile Image for JaHy☝Hold the Fairy Dust.
345 reviews576 followers
August 14, 2014
I'm sitting here like a retard wondering if the authors brilliant or really cruel....I DON'T KNOW!!!!

Here's a mini summary of the book..

...... I'm not kidding .

I need to think about this....
Profile Image for Irina Elena.
659 reviews172 followers
April 1, 2017
My brain is short-circuiting.

This is the kind of novel that makes you wonder whether the author is a normal human being or someone - something - with preternatural abilities of cognition and expression.
You think I'm exaggerating? You think this is hyperbole? Sorry to disappoint, but I'm not, and it isn't.

This book is FUCKING INSANE.

And believe me, you will be shocked, terrified, horrified, thrilled and amazed.
No matter how realistically absurd the things you expect are, what you'll find is going to hit you ten times harder than you thought.

I have to be vague, okay? It's better for everyone, because if I start writing about the actual story I won't stop 'til morning and I'll spoil everything.

I'll just say a few important things.
1. Jenna is (I know I just said this about Theo from Pointe - guess I hit a good streak) one of the best protagonists I've ever come across ever. Ever. Her voice is compelling, fresh, snarky, clever and hard yet so, so fragile. And holy hell, how did I never know how fun an unreliable narrator can be? From now on, just send them my way, thank you very much.
Her choices and decisions are consistent and perfectly logical, if you consider the circumstances. I'll bet she never does what you or I would do, but if you think about it, if you were her... you'd probably do the same thing.
Let her draw you in and capture you. Let her make you understand.
2. Every other character is batshit crazy. No, I'm not kidding.
It's the kind of crazy we all are - the kind of crazy you don't always figure out irl, but strikes you as so familiar in books. I know I'm not alone here.
3. The writing is gorgeous, and startlingly candid, coy and sharp and snappy. Bick has a way of describing the physical and the psychological or emotional that made me literally shiver and gasp and stare at the pages, wanting to break up single paragraphs in tiny pieces and drink them up, and devour the whole thing without stopping for breath. I DON'T KNOW WHAT IT IS, OKAY. All I know is that sex has never seemed so erotic, anger so frightening, lies so painful, love so profound. I found myself thinking "Fuck, this is what the real thing must be like".
4. I think there was something else, but my brain cells are fried. Repeated shock must have done them in. Or maybe perfection. Either of the two, or both.

I feel like I would cry if I didn't feel so numb. (The super-powerful-feels-bomb-induced kind of numbness.)

I could - should? - say this story is made up entirely of gray areas, but personally, I don't feel like it is. I feel like I know what's right and what's wrong here, and it just makes everything that little bit harder to handle.

I hate to do this, but: READ IT. If you take one recommendation or piece of advice from me in your entire life, let it be this.
It's worth a try, whether it's for the writing, or the protagonist, or the moral conflict, or the love story (in the purest sense of "story of love"), or the huge mix of issues Bick doesn't handle (you'll find it works a bit like pills and alcohol. You don't want that shit in your bloodstream, but it is kind of addictive, isn't it?).

Woman, go forth and spread (more of) your genius in the world, yeah?
Because I've never read a better fairytale with teeth and claws.
Profile Image for Christina (A Reader of Fictions).
4,211 reviews1,649 followers
December 4, 2013
Whoa. What an incredibly dark and well-done novel. I have absolutely no doubt that Ilsa J. Bick will come to be recognized alongside authors like Laurie Halse Anderson. She clearly has no problem plumbing the darkest and most terrifying of human emotions. Like Anderson, she also focuses on teens, on the bad stuff - not the shiny vampires and the sweet first loves.

Reading this book...it's going to hurt. Jenna is incredibly messed up. You learn this up front. She's spent a year in an institution, put there after it was discovered that she'd been cutting. So yeah, going into it you know her family's a mess and that she is too, but you don't know the full extent of it. The awfulness just keeps on rolling; I only wish that there were not people out there who have likely actually lived lives like Jenna's.

The main plot is about Jenna's relationship with an older man, her science teacher Mr. Anderson. Obviously, this too is a completely dark and forbidden thing. At the outset, you don't know what's going on exactly, but you definitely have your suspicions and you're pretty sure it's bad. Bick does an amazing job of highlighting the difficulties of understanding such a case.

Nothing in this book is black and white. For one thing, Jenna is not an especially reliable narrator. It's hard to know how much of what she believes to be true is actually true. Such realizations can be just as mind-blowing as reading through the book itself is. I got completely sucked into her story and to seeing from her point of view. Then, when I would step back and think about it, I had to face the fact that things may not be what they seem at all.

Fans of Laurie Halse Anderson or Patricia McCormick will love undoubtedly love this book. Do not read it without due preparation: i.e. tissues and/or something super sappy and happy to help you recover afterwards.
Profile Image for Myvampfiction.
210 reviews5 followers
January 5, 2012
Reviewed by Sue

*Warning: possible spoilers ahead.*

To be perfectly honest, I had no idea what this book was about when I requested it from NetGalley. I knew how I felt about the author’s book, Ashes, so I automatically requested it out of the need to read more of her writing. It wasn’t really even until about 70 pages in that I got the “uh-0h” vibe from Jenna’s teacher, Mr. Anderson that I even went I read the book info. To say the book drew me in is an understatement, because one of the things I have a habit of doing if a book doesn’t interest me is looking at the page count. If I don’t like I book, I’ll think man, I’m only on page 3 of 4392? With this book, I got to reading in bed one night and I looked down out of curiosity to see what page I was on. I was on page 78. Out of 352. Yup, I’d be sticking with this one.

*From this point on... there may probably be spoilers...*

The book begins with Jenna being pulled from a frozen lake and asking the police detective if she is going to jail. The detective in charge is a nice man, and for some reason I imagine him to be an older version of Det. Stabler, but maybe that’s just me. Knowing she’s going to be in the ER room for a little while, he gives her a digital recorder and tells her to simply tell her story. He then reassures her that things will be okay. There is no information given as to why she’s in the ER (other than being close to hypothermia) and that adds a lot of mystery. So, Jenna begins her story.

She’s a cutter. She’s been in a psych ward. Now, desperate for a “fresh start”, her parents move her and enroll her in a new school. Her dad is a prominent surgeon, her mom is an alcoholic book store owner and Jenna is something of a science wiz. Her story begins innocuously enough, and for awhile I really thought it was going to be more about her relationship with her fractured family. Her narrative is sassy, witty and concise. She is telling the story with what is on her mind at that very moment.

Her first day at school is typical for a new student, and of course, there is that friendlier-than-probably-should-be teacher that comes to Jenna’s resuce. I don’t know if the book ever stated Mr. Anderson’s age, but Jenna is 16, so there is the potential for disaster.

It takes awhile for the book to make it clear that Jenna is barrelling head first into an inappropriate relationship with Mr. Anderson. Along the way, there are many warning signs, but Jenna is mostly focusing on the story as she lived it, which was free of the red flags we as the reader see. There are a few supporting characters: David, the Student Council president; Danielle, David’s snobby, bitchy, but obviously troubled girlfriend; Jenna’s parents (Psycho-Dad and Alcoholic Mom) and Meryl, a famous author friend of Jenna’s mom. Jenna’s brother Matt also plays a part, although, she tells us, he is stationed in the Middle East and their communication is through a private email set up on a ghost server so her mom doesn’t find out they are emailing in and freak out. It takes almost half of the book to really understand WHY Jenna’s mom would freak out about said communication. And when you as a reader figure it out, it will send a chill up your spine.

Eventually, Jenna realizes that she has crossed a line with Mr. Anderson and she has no idea how to turn back. She has no idea how to begin assigned seating and stand outside in the hallway across from the office, if you will. And what’s really scary is that, I started rooting for them! Mr. Anderson is everything a 16 year old girl should stay away from. He’s married, but his wife is mysteriously absent. He has a secret room in the back of the chemistry store room that he uses for naps after runs, because, you know he’s the Girl’s Cross Country coach. There are tons of red flags but you can’t focus on them because it’s Jenna’s story and she doesn’t see them. I’m not entirely sure she understood how horrible the situation was until she was dictating the story into the detective’s digital recorder.

About 2/3 through the book, the relationship between Mr. Anderson and Jenna goes tumbling over the ledge and it’s so sad and heartfelt and raw and emotional that…I felt bad for feeling the way I felt towards the characters. I would get into their story until I realized, holy crap she’s 16; this is SO NOT RIGHT! Even near the end when Jenna starts putting the pieces together about what is truth and what is a lie, you feel like Mr. Anderson might even be justified in his actions. It’s dispicable, but there are so many other forces at work, that it’s almost impossible to draw a right/wrong line in the sand. It’s a thought provoking book to say the very least.

The ending is extremely powerful. Jenna’s life has begun to unravel in 12 hour period and she makes some split second decisions that, at first might be bad, but in the end, saved her life. The fate of Mr. Anderson is up in the air as the book ends, and that is the point. The reader has to take all of this information that has been thrown out and make sense of their feelings about it. I finished this book 8 hours ago, and I’m still having a hard time reconciling my feelings and thoughts. At the very end of the book, Jenna makes a decision that some people would say is cowardly and stupid. But, you know…I wanted to give her a high five. It might be perceived as trying to protect a predator, but I saw it as an empowering move. I think she was protecting herself and Mr. Anderson’s estranged wife more than she was protecting him. For her entire life, Jenna was kept under a microscope and told every move to make. She was never allowed to think or feel for herself, which, in my opinion is probably what led to her cutting problem – that was the only thing she had any control over and it became the outlet she needed to take control of her life. Her decision at the end of the book was her way of saying, “this is my life and it’s time for everyone else to stop trying to control me.” She was taking control and she was braver for it. And, I really believe she was saving lives and not damning them.

The point is, as the author pointed out to me on Twitter, there is a ton of ambiguity there, and for good reason. The reader has to come to terms with the fact that sometimes, stories aren’t so cut and dry. There is often more than meets the eye and we have to examine all possibilities.

Drowning Instinct gets an easy 5 moons from me.
Profile Image for Katherine.
759 reviews346 followers
December 19, 2019
”This is a fairy tale with teeth and claws and here’s what completely sucks: you’re going to want black and white, 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.”

Wow. WOW. I was NOT expecting this story to pack as much punch to it as it did and have it be so effective as well.

Jenna Lord’s life is like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” game gone horribly wrong. Her dad’s verbally abusive, her mother’s a washed up alcoholic, both are having affairs, she’s just gotten out of a mental institution for cutting her arms, her brother’s deployed to Afghanistan... everything that could have gone wrong has gone wrong for Jenna. That is, until she meets her new chemistry teacher, Mr. Anderson.
”But the this is the truth: I’m a Liar. I am lucky, a liar, a good girl, a princess, a thief- and a killer. And my reality- my story- begins with Mr. Anderson.”
He seems to be the only one that truly understands her; hell, at times, he seems to be the only one that cares. But they soon get themselves caught in a web of deception so deep Jenna may not be sure she can crawl out of it.

All the characters in this book are completely, irrevocably fucked up. I just don’t know how to put it any nicer than that. The adults are absolutely horrible to the point where the kids are actually more mature than their guardians. It’s like the author took some sort of sadistic pleasure in making her character’s lives miserable to the point where it kind of became over the top.

Mr. Anderson was an unusual character. He’s the requisite “hot teacher” all fictional schools tend to have.
”He was beautiful like something out of a dream. He was a demigod, and I was well... awed. Like someone this perfect couldn’t be.”
Cause let’s face it; if you’re going to write about a student/teacher affair, they can’t be ugly, amiright?

The reason I say that Anderson was so unusual was simply because I didn’t know what to make of him. On the one hand, I thought his actions towards Jenna were entirely creepy to the point of stalking. I mean, I’ve definitely had caring teachers in the past, but who on earth would willingly drive a student home from school, prepare dinner, wash the dishes, and feed the dog? That’s overkill. Or how he happened to conveniently show up every time Jenna had a crisis. It seemed kind of stalkerish to me.

But on the other hand, I could see what the author was doing in her writing and characterization of Anderson, and I thought it was brilliant. Where the reader would find it stalkerish and creepy, someone in Jenna’s situation would be relieved and grateful (and also attractive), that he would be doing these things. Her life is so miserable that anyone even with the slightest hint of normalcy is immediately appealing. And in the beginning, he’s just that; appealingly normal. If it’s the bait Anderon was wanting to work, it definitely worked, all right.
”I was transformed. I was a woman. I was loved and I loved someone in return. This kind of obsession was delicious and wonderful, and I never wanted it to end.”

So Jenna’s right; this is a book that’s all grit, tooth, and claw. It sinks its teeth into you and never lets you go, right up to the final chapter.
Profile Image for Imnothing Yo Nada.
274 reviews5 followers
February 11, 2016
AVISO: Sí por un casual quieres coger el libro y leerlo, y eres de esos/as que evitas los spoilers, no me leas. Porqué para comentar lo que pienso, es imposible no relatar según que pasajes del tomo. Así pues empiezo:

No te engañaré: engancha y mucho. Es de esos libros, que aunque aborrezcas su contenido, uno es incapaz de separarse de él por el mero echo del "¿que pasará ahora?" Vamos haciendo honor a la verdad: por puro morbo. Bien, haciendo un inciso en lo alto. Te comentaré por encima de que va. Jenna- nuestra protagonista- se automutila. Con la inestabilidad que significa para ella y su familia, su padre decide apuntarla en una escuela para superdtados en la cuál la joven conocerá al Sr Anderson y bueno... ¿Que te puedo contar ahora salvo lo que te explica Jenna en el libro?

Jenna empieza su relato con una grabadora en la mano, contándonos su historia y haciéndonos participes de ella. Poco a poco iremos descubriendo, como lo hizo ella, como su mundo evolucionó y es el intento de vida que es ahora.

Fin del argumento. Ahora toca mi reflexión (Vamos los spoilers) Así que CUÍDADO.

Mira, hay miles de cosas que no entiendo. Cosas que se han dejado en el tintero y sin explicación; que a mi sinceramente me han asqueado.
1- Todo lo que rodea al Sr Anderon/ Mich
Te invita a correr, a cenar, se interesa demasiado... Vamos no me jodas, piénsalo, ¿te imaginas a tu profesor de matemáticas haciendo todo eso y tu sin sospechar de él? Yo por lo menos no me lo creo. Y sí, es de esas personas a las que se le ve el tintero, desde el momento 0 todo lo que respecta a él dice DANGER en rojo y parpadeando. Así que si Jenna es superdotada, cuando Danielle dice "le gustan las rotas", su padre decide darle un puñetazo, cuando ve las clínicas de aborto en el ordenador de Mich, su implicación con Danielle, sus mentiras... ¿Decides creerle porque lo vez en su cara?
Vamos no me jodas. También le viste en la cara su sinceridad y resulta que no tenía hermanas, que no se implicaba con más niñas... Todo mentira ¿por qué cojones vas a creerle ahora con lo del aborto? ¿Por qué? Hay en ocasiones en las que me planteaba si Jenna era superdotada o simplemente el intento de una adolescente por tener un amor idealizado a lo Crepúsculo.
Solo una fuera de Mich
Haber. Jenna se corta (según su psiquiatra) para tener a sus padres juntitos y sin separación. Entonces: ¿por qué cuando les ves felices y abrazados, coges, subes a la habitación y te pones a chillar en la almohada ¿por qué? ¿No era por eso por lo que en un principio te cortabas? ¿Para que estuvieran juntos? ¿Por que te da tanto asco?

Gente que leáis hasta aquí. Ahora en serio; tengo que explicaros lo del profesor mejor:

Jenna conoce al profesor y se nos enchocha. Bueno decido admitirselo, porque esta revolucionada con las hormonas, y además ¿que adolescente no controla a sus hormonas como quien tiene un pitbull con ganas de salir? Pues eso, casi nadie. Sigo. El profesor la ayuda (demasiado) y decide hacerla su ayudante.
En una de estas, en su despacho le dice que tiene una ducha u¡y una cama para descansar escondidas en el colegio.... Espera ¿qué? ¿Que profesor tiene una cama escondida en un trastero que puede cerrarse con llave? Para ese momento mi cabeza ya decía DANGER y PICADERO. Pero bueno, la superdotada de Jenna se cree lo que le dice el susodicho, que duerme cuando corre ¿Y para que tienes tu tú cama en casa, para comer...? En fin que una cosa va a la otra y Jenna decide encontrarse con el.
Vamos que se buscan aposta.
En el colegio, la mala le comenta que le gustan las mujeres rotas y que bueno, que le da asco por acaparar su puesto. A Jenna la superdotada no le importa, piensa que Danielle ésta celosa y ya ésta, aún no suma DOS MÁS DOS en lo que se refiere a estos temas. Chachi, sigamos ¿vale? Un día corriendo (sí corren mucho, más que tu dinero en la cuenta corriente cuando vienen facturas) la lleva a un café donde le suelta la dependienta "¿Es otra de tus chicas?" Y ella piensa, nada ¿que va pensar? Que la dependienta se le va la cabeza y punto. Mich/Anderson/Acosador le dice a la superdotada que no sabe porque dice eso (¿De verdad que no sabes por qué, quieres que te marque un mapa con todos tus acosos?) Y bueno, Jenna la superdotada le cree, aún no chilla DANGER en su cabeza.
Otro día corriendo la lleva a una cabaña, otra mierda que reforma él para estar tranquilo (Mertira es otro picadero para tirarse a sus alumnas) y bueno Jenna lo adora, ve en el un hombre tan vacío como ella y encima un mártir de la lectura, una cosa lleva a la otra la besa (el con una mujer que perdió un niño y que su padre tiene cáncer TOMA DRAMA)
Jenna le imagina por todas partes, hasta que el dia siguiente va al colegio para hablar con el (En serio si te gusta y te has besado con el nadie se cree que vayas ha hablar con el, por lo menos no verbalmente) Y bueno, en su despacho el Acosador apaga las luces, y la lleva a su cama a enseñarle a dormir para cuando corra... No, es mentira, se la tira ahí mismo mientras le dice que se calle la boca que irá a la cárcel y más gilipolleces.
Se la tira en su despacho, en el coche y le comenta que es lo que más le gusta que le hagan sexualmente (Tal vez a tu mujer le gusta que le llamen y le pregunten "¿Cariño como ésta tu padre? ¿Y tú?"
El la llama "Cariño" y ella se enchocha más, aún no es superdotada máxima porque en una de sus carreras con la Tirana de la Clase (Aka Danielle), se caen las dos y bueno, van al hospital como es normal. En el autocar el padre de Tirana ve al Acosador y se acuerda de algo, muy malo por lo que parece y se tira a él (A lo mejor tiene la sospecha de que también se tiró a Tirana) pero bueno da igual porque Jenna la Superdotada aún no sabe sumar DOS MÁS DOS.

Día de Acción de Gracias; Acosador dice que tiene tres hermanas y que las quiere visitar, Jenna se lo cree. En ese instante Madre de Jenna sufre quemaduras de tercer grado en el 75% de su cuerpo y en el restante de segundo. Tal vez muera. A Jenna le da igual, quiere llamar a Acosador para comentarle lo de su madre (no, en realidad lo llama porque quiere escuchar la voz de su Acosador, su madre le importa, eso, una mierda) Se lo coge su mujer (sí, esa que perdió a uno, no espera dos hijos, y que tiene un padre con cáncer) y le dice que Acosador ésta con ella, que qué hermanas, que no existen. Acosador es HIJO ÚNICO.

Momento en el que Jenna suma DOS MÁS DOS y le da TRES. Se acerca pero aún nada.

Malhumorada se va a la cabaña, enciende el ordenador y ve clínicas de aborto de Illinois, el único sitio donde se puede abortar con dieciséis ¿Y quien tiene dieciséis?
Sí, Danille la Tirana.

Tirana esta embaraza. MADRE MÍA. Pero espera, ella sabe que es de Acosador, sino de ¿quien? ¿De su padre? ¿De su hermano?

Pues bueno, Acosador llega corriendo a la cabaña y le dice que no es de el, que es del padre o del hermano, y bueno. Jenna ve en cara es sincero , como en todas aquellas veces que le había mentido y ella vió la misma sinceridad. Cree a su Acosador/ProfesorAsqueroso y piensa en la pobre de Danielle como eso, una pobre que no ha conseguido a Acosador.

QUE TRISTE ¿Mensaje? ¿Moraleja? Yo que se, sigo pensando en el libro y no saco demasiado en claro.
Profile Image for Chiara Cilli.
Author 49 books609 followers
February 7, 2017

Ambiguo, tetro, sinistro, tremendo e strabiliante.

Come si suppone che debba incominciare questa recensione? Sono davvero in grado di parlare di questo libro, di rendergli giustizia? Certo che no. Quando il destino mette un capolavoro come questo sul tuo cammino, non puoi far altro che arrenderti e annegare.


Mi chiedo quanto forte debba premere per far uscire il sangue. Non forte, decisi.
Qualche secondo, questo è tutto ciò di cui ho bisogno.

Fin dal prologo sapevo che questa storia mi avrebbe segnato irrimediabilmente.
Nel bene, nel male ▬ ha davvero importanza?
Lo stile e la suddivisione dei capitoli sono stati l'esca che mi ha attratto nella trappola dell'autrice.
E da quel momento in poi, per me non c'è stato scampo.

Altri giorni non entrava, ma guardava verso la mia finestra mentre attraversava il parcheggio e sollevava una mano. Le finestre erano oscurate, quindi non so se mi vedeva salutarlo di rimando. Ma sapeva dov'ero, Bob, lui lo sapeva.

Lui, lei.
Jenna e il signor Anderson.
Una sedicenne e il suo professore di chimica.

Scrutai la porta del bagno.
Avrei potuto. Sarebbe stato così semplice. Una rapida rotazione del polso. Una lieve pressione. Avrei potuto farlo. Così lo feci. Per la prima volta dopo mesi, Bob... chiusi a chiave la porta.

Ma se è così vietato, perché il mio cuore accelerava ogniqualvolta lei e lui erano insieme? Come potevo resistere al magnetismo che elettrizza l'aria tra di loro?
Non ho potuto.
Perché la loro attrazione è sottile, sapientemente celata e tenuta sotto controllo.
Ti avviluppa come un boa e, prima che tu te ne accorga, ti ritrovi costretto in un vortice di emozioni che ti accarezzano, infide e sinuose.
Emozioni che sai ti uccideranno molto lentamente.

E allora corri.

«Perché questo è il nostro ultimo giorno e non voglio sprecarlo. Avrò un mucchio di tempo per dormire, quando non sarò con te. Avrò il resto della vita».

Ma correre è assolutamente inutile.
Perché quando due anime gemelle si trovano, non c'è tempesta che possa tenerle lontane.

E allora, tutto esplode.

«Non andare» sussurrò ancora. «Non voglio che tu te ne vada. Ti prego».

Ed è selvaggio e intenso e brutale e incontrollabile e animalesco e così passionale.
Totalmente disarmante.

«Questo è quello che solo tu riesci a farmi» disse, a denti stretti, attirandomi più vicino. «Tu sei la sola, Jenna, la sola».
«Tutto ciò che vedo sei tu».

Non puoi fermare un tornado. Puoi trovare un punto sicuro da cui ammirarlo crescere e distruggere tutto ciò che incontra sul suo cammino, sperando al contempo che cessi in fretta, perché sei consapevole che è portatore di morte.
Oppure gli vai incontro.

«Ti prego, amami, Jenna. Ti prego, stringimi. Ti prego, salvami», e poi stava grugnendo; la sua bocca era una febbre che scendeva lungo il mio collo, la lingua che stuzzicava prima la mia e poi i miei seni, le sue mani che mi tiravano i capelli, e poi cominciammo a muoverci insieme, e non ci fu nient'altro che questo e questo e questo e questo e lui. «Amami, Jenna, ti prego» ansimò. «Amami, amami, amami, amami».

Ti abbandoni completamente a un amore che ti consuma l'anima, che non dovresti provare, che dovresti soffocare con tutte le tue forze, che non può vedere la luce del sole, eppure . . .
You are just old enough.

E allora ti convinci che andrà tutto bene.
Non devi aver paura.
O sospetti.
E' tutto esattamente come sembra.
Non è come pensi . . .

«Lo chiamano istinto di annegamento. E' quando non sembra che tu stia annegando».

Ma poi . . .

Leggi la recensione sul blog
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Profile Image for Ashley.
667 reviews717 followers
December 31, 2012
Drowning Instinct by Ilsa J. Bick - Take down the walls

BookNook — Young Adult book reviews

4.5 stars

Holy crap, Drowning Instinct was AMAZING! It was so intense and wrong and heartbreaking all in one. This book definitely would have been great to listen to as an audiobook; I kind of regret that I didn't. Basically, the story starts off with Jenna being brought to the hospital soaking wet, then a detective hands her a tape recorder and encourages her to tell her tale. So the whole story is what she says into the tape recorder, which is why I think it would be AMAZING on audio! Jenna tells us (or the detective—Bob) all about her experience with her dysfunctional family, the abuse she suffered, and how she dealt with it (by 'cutting', and among other things). Everything leads up to her questionable relationship with an older man (her teacher).

This book has so many different layers and so many different sides to it. We have Jenna's relationship with her parents, her relationship with her brother, her relationship with her peers at school, her relationship with her teacher, and her relationship with herself. All of it builds up into one giant mess that finally explains Jenna's past, her secrets, and the source of all her pain. Jenna is a brilliant narrator with a unique and honest voice. You will believe that the story she tells is real. She's extremely convincing and captivating, and will make you want to keep reading no matter what!

But this is the truth: I’m a liar.

I am lucky, a liar, a good girl, a princess, a thief—and a killer.

Honestly, I barely even know what to say about this book. It's one of those stories you just can't really comment on; you have to feel it—and then it will overpower you and own you. Plus, all the best bits unfold at the end. It will hit you like a freight train and leave you gasping for air. I love how the lines are so blurred in Drowning Instinct. The blurb is frighteningly accurate when it says "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." There is no certainty in this book. It's all questionable, and it's all grey.

My one complaint about this book is the romance. Even though they're pretty different, I can't help but compare this book to Captive in the Dark, because they're both about inappropriate relationships and loving someone you shouldn't. In Captive in the Dark, Olivia falls in love with Caleb. Their relationship is wrong on so many levels, but somehow I fell for it. I loved it and was disgusted by it with every fiber of my being. That didn't quite happen to me in Drowning Instinct . I did come to understand Jenna's relationship with her teacher, but it didn't completely win me over. I think I always viewed it more as a strong friendship that slightly bordered on inappropriate, rather than a passionate, soul-shaking romance. I didn't really see the love between them as much as I would have liked. Maybe it's because they kiss and have sex, but we don't read about any of it. Jenna tells us that it happened, but we don't actually see the experience for ourselves. Maybe that's why I constantly only saw friendship, rather than two lovers.

"It's the torture of not knowing that fuels a romance and that kind of pain is sweet, so sweet."
—Drowning Instinct, Page 178

When I finished reading Drowning Instinct I froze. It's like I just needed a minute to sit and absorb everything I just read. The last 50 pages or so are truly a whirlwind of uncovering lies, deceit, discovering truths, being wrong, being right.. and all the information just floods in. It's insane, it's intense, and it's all kinds of awesome. I will admit, the darker side of me was hoping for a slightly different ending. Basically, near the end of the book we're kind of shown two possible endings: a slightly darker and more insanely terrifying ending, and a little brighter ending. I was hoping for the darker one. It was just so gross and crazy and creepy that I couldn't help but beg for it! I kind of wanted

I definitely recommend this book to anyone who can handle an intense, disturbing book. I literally read Drowning Instinct in one sitting, and I nearly pitched a raging fit when my reading was interrupted during the climax of the book. Overall, this is a brilliant read that will leave you thinking and questioning. It will laugh at all the normality in your life and poke and prod at your weaknesses.

There's blood-pain, there's knife-pain. There's bang-your-funny-bone-pain.

And then there is the pain of fire, molten and alive: the swirl of flames streaming over rotten wood and naked flesh. That pain moves when you move; it mutters between every breath; it spikes your ears; it rips. You think pain can't be any more horrible than that.

Until you discover that the well is bottomless. There's always more. A different kind of pain, maybe, but more and much, much worse.
—Drowning Instinct, Page 8
Profile Image for Stiby (María MV).
Author 6 books79 followers
December 17, 2021
Pues añadiendo por fin un nuevo libro a la lista de lecturas. La verdad es que salgo bastante decepcionada. No quiero dejarme nada y espero explicar bien por qué no me ha gustado este libro.

Advertencia: Este review puede contener SPOILERS. Más bien sobre detalles, pero avisados quedáis.

Al principio me parecía una buena idea; una adolescente con problemas, íbamos a ver cómo los afrontaba. Psicólogos, autolesiones,… bueno, no tenía mala pinta hasta ahí. Pero a medida que avanza la novela empiezas a ver que alrededor de la protagonista todo, absolutamente todo, son problemas. Una familia desequilibrada (madre, padre, abuelo,…), apenas tiene amigos y los chicos que conoce también tienen problemas (alimenticios, familiares, psicológicos,…) El mundo entero se reduce a problemas y, al final, empieza a parecer irreal.

Por un lado, hablemos de los padres de la protagonista. Un psicópata y una alcohólica. Dejan a su hija sola durante semanas sabiendo los problemas que tiene. Sabiendo que en cualquier momento empieza a autolesionarse o a entrar en un bucle autodepresivo. Todo muy normal.

Hablemos después de sus profesores, en concreto de uno en el que ella intenta apoyarse. Es cierto que él le ayuda a afrontar algunas cosas, pero, mierda, en realidad acaba enmarañando todavía más su vida, añadiéndole más confusión y problemas. No es en absoluto responsable, y algunas de las secuencias y frases que se dan con este personaje, son para pegarle un par de guantazos. (Concretamente, recuerdo una en la que salen a correr juntos para entrenar para una competición del equipo de cross del colegio y a ella le da un calambre y entonces él dice que es culpa suya por “no haber comprobado que se había hidratado bien”… ¿Qué mierda…?)

En fin, personajes planos y repetitivos con los que es muy difícil identificarse, porque todos son iguales, todos están para mi gusto cortados con el mismo patrón y todos dan ganas de ponerse a repartir capones, a ver si espabilan. Lejos de ayudar a centrarse en los problemas de la protagonista, el resto de personajes acaban por desdibujarlos, porque a su alrededor sólo hay más y más y más de lo mismo. Este problema de repeticiones también lo he encontrado a nivel de las escenas, ya que durante el tramo central de la novela, se repite una y otra vez la misma escena de entrenamientos de cross, sin aportar nada nuevo.

Además, este libro peca de uno de los problemas recurrentes de la literatura hoy en día: mencionar y spoilear clásicos o películas. Tiburón, Alien, y otras películas que por suerte he borrado de mi mente, porque pasé por los párrafos sin leer del todo. No encuentro la necesidad de hablar en los libros sobre otros libros, o sobre películas. Al menos, no sobre escenas concretas que una persona que no haya visto las películas no va a entender y no le van a aportar nada, aparte de pequeños spoilers.

En general, la lectura se me ha hecho lenta y en muchas partes no sentía que estuviese pasando nada. No veía una dirección. Y, en cierto modo, creo que no la había.
Lo único positivo que saco de este libro es el principio, que me pareció que estaba bien escrito y bien planteado, y la idea que deja de que por ser adulto no quiere decir que no cometas errores.
Profile Image for Keertana.
1,126 reviews2,162 followers
December 6, 2013
Rating: 3.5 Stars

I've been wanting to read Drowning Instinct ever since I first laid eyes on its cover. Admit it: it's powerful. Unfortunately, the story Bick regales is more insane than powerful. Granted, I appreciate the moral ambiguity of the characters Bick has sketched, not to mention the complexity of their situations, but ultimately, this novel lacked a little something. Hope? Heart? Or maybe just purpose...

Drowning Instinct's first few pages are a dream, an intrusion into an original form of storytelling that truly worked, both for me and the novel as a whole. Jenna, our sixteen-year-old protagonist, is asked to speak into a recorder and tell her story. For me, reading Jenna's tale told through frank conversation made it easier to slip into her past. Yet, Jenna is chock-full of problems. Not only does she carry the burn marks of a terrible incident, complete with scars from cutting herself, but her family has a history of mental illness, her mother is an alcoholic, her father is constantly having an affair with a new woman, and her parents' marriage is falling apart. Moreover, Jenna's older brother is in Iraq and a taboo subject in their family. On one hand, Bick handles Jenna's issues cleverly, ensuring that they each are given an ample amount of screen time, but these multiple issues only served to make Jenna a sympathetic character. When stripped of her mental illness, her suicidal tendencies, her horrible family...there is very little to Jenna herself. Thus, I can't say I was a fan of this blatant attempt to garner feeling for the main character.

Due to its purposeful format, recounting events of the past, Drowning Instinct moves at a quick pace. It is nearly impossible to set down, merely because the reader simply has to know what is going to happen. Jenna is vulnerable and isolated because of her brokenness, so when Mr. Anderson, her chemistry teacher, reaches out a hand of kindness, Jenna grabs on. At first, Mr. Anderson is nothing more than a supporting teacher, willing to listen to Jenna, ensuring she gets home safely when her mother forgets to pick her up, and saving her from situations of molest. And yet, despite these kind acts, there is a niggling sense that something is wrong. It is; something is very, very wrong, for Mr. Anderson is just as screwed up as Jenna is, torn down by his past. In many ways, these two seek comfort and solace in one another, seeking to help each other stay above the water, not drown. Admittedly, a story of two people healing one another isn't so bad, but a sixteen-year-old girl and a teacher? It's more than a little sickening.

Where Drowning Instinct becomes interesting, though, is in the fact that Mitch Anderson really isn't painted to be a monster. If anything, he gives Jenna the support and courage she needs to begin facing her problems. With her parents dealing with their own doses of crazy, Jenna desperately needs an adult figure in her life to help her and, despite the nature of their relationship, Mitch does help Jenna - immensely. Although Mr. Anderson is proven to be many things, including a liar, Jenna can never forget the fact that he was there when she needed someone, even if it was just someone to listen to her. Nevertheless, I did feel as if the ending to this novel was a cop-out on Bick's part. Everything was tied up a little too openly, a little too loosely, and yet a little too neatly at the same time. We don't know if Jenna is ever going to be alright and, even worse, we have no hope for her future. Although I applaud Bick for tackling a taboo subject and putting it into a difficult perspective, either than her message of moral ambiguity, nothing else is left.

I don't think I can recommend Drowning Instinct. It's written well, filled with three-dimensional characters, and is impossible to put down. Yet, those final emotions that linger even after a book is over were bleak and confusing. Tabitha Sazuma's Forbidden tackles a taboo subject - an incestuous relationship - in a way that is far more effective and emotional. Drowning Instinct, on the other hand, holds you at arms length so that the greatest emotion you're likely to feel is shock. Bick's story isn't for everyone. I don't even think it was for me.

You can read this review and more on my blog, Ivy Book Bindings.
Profile Image for Paige (Illegal in 3 Countries).
1,203 reviews391 followers
February 12, 2021
See more of my reviews on The YA Kitten!

3.5 stars!

Someone failed to tell me about Drowning Instinct‘s unreliable narrator earlier, which is an act so egregious that it should be criminalized. I love unreliable narrators and I heard a lot was going on at once, which is also a plus. And yet it took four years and the set-up of a TBR Jar system for me to finally read the book. THANK YOU, SERENDIPITY. If you want to read a mildly older YA book instead of getting lost in all the new releases each week, this is one of the books to travel back in time for.

There’s so much going on here that it can be hard to keep track of–Jenna’s trauma from the fire that left her scarred, her parents’ fighting and impending divorce, her trials starting at a new school after problems at the old one, and more with her cynical voice offering 20/20-hindsight commentary on it all–but it works well.

Obviously, Jenna’s growing relationship with Mr. Anderson is at the center of everything. Your engagement in the novel will hinge heavily on whether you believe in their relationship if you disregard the fact they’re student and teacher. Compared to everything revealed later about dear Mr. Anderson, the student-teacher detail practically means nothing–and that certainly says something, doesn’t it?

For me, I appreciate their relationship’s build-up but also recognize all the unhealthy things going on. Sometimes, you do get unlucky and meet your special someone in that kind of situation. Though nothing happened in in her school days–in fact, they only started dating long after she’d graduated high school–my tenth grade science teacher married one of his former students. Jenna and Mr. Anderson remind me a great deal of them. There are elements of a genuine love between them, but then the cemetery of skeletons he’s been hiding in his closet come flooding out. WHOOPS.

What really weakens Drowning Instinct is its ending. The story’s final chapters leaves readers with too many questions unanswered, too many holes open, and too many matters that need closure. Of course, being that Jenna is highly unreliable, you have to decide some of the answers on your own; she likely wouldn’t provide some of the answers even if the novel didn’t end as it did. That doesn’t make the lack of epilogue to her tale’s intense ending any less maddening.

My rating for Drowning Instinct is only 3.5 stars, but my entertainment rating needs more stars than just 5! Honestly, I feel more strongly about this novel than some books I’ve assigned higher ratings. There are simply issues that have to be acknowledged and that (unfortunately) bump the rating down. Do you want unreliable narrators? Were you either not around or completely unaware when this book came out in 2012? Well, there’s never a better time to rectify your oversight than right now! Wholehearted rec right here. It’s not fully polished, but it’s one of those books that will engage you fully.
Profile Image for Soplada.
239 reviews396 followers
May 26, 2016
Second Time Reading Edit :
Now we have the fifth star blank place filled and that will maybe explains why this book is my most favorite book of all the time.
the reasons are tiresome to mention they are like. A lot !

Oh ,I'm disappointed , sad , overwhelmed why has it ended that way what happened next?
Or let me talk to myself "who told you to read this book and why ?"
"the book at all felt right"

I did understand a lot of things due to human behavior , relationships , and Love. I never thought love would mean something like this I guess:
Love is so much deep as much as you want it to be So that's the reason why we see suicidal attempts which are left without any rational reasons. The story is beautifully and professionally told because it is written by a real psychiatrist who is talking about real mental problems and told with skillful way when the protagonist is recording what happened. The good thing too is that she showed us that the Psycho is the one who is understanding and analyzing and the people around there in her society are the ones who started to be Psych ward and that's the point but she didn't mention it. The writing style and the chosen words delivered what meant to be delivered this is how I want and wish to write.

Mr. Anderson you will always be in my mind for sure
R.I.P or .. or what
are you still alive ?

Could anyone tell me please ?
Profile Image for ᒪᗴᗩᕼ .
1,430 reviews136 followers
April 20, 2019
2.8 Out Of 5 STARS

๏  Highlights ๏

Taboo Romance
Older YA

With Audio Performed by Kathleen McInerney

๏  My Thoughts ๏
The cover and the narrator are the only recommendable aspects of this story...everything else is questionable...except maybe the ending.  I found the ending to be almost perfect, everything except for how they got there in the first place...

Overall, for me, the story has believability issues...so many aspects of the story just didn't sit well for me.   I'm surprised I gave it a chance at all...because teacher/student romance isn't really my thing...especially when dealing with high school age kids.  Just goes to show what an excellent cover can do for a story, at least for someone like me.


๏ Breakdown of Ratings ๏ 

Plot⇝  2.5/5
Narration Performance⇝  4.5/5
Main Characters⇝  2.5/5
Secondary Characters  2/5
The Feels⇝  2.5/5
Pacing⇝  4/5
Addictiveness⇝  3.8/5
Theme or Tone⇝  2/5
Flow (Writing Style)⇝  3.5/5
Backdrop (World Building)⇝  4/5
Originality⇝  2/5
Ending⇝  4/5 Cliffhanger⇝ Nah...
๏ ๏ ๏
Book Cover⇝ Striking, love the color...
Setting⇝ Wisconsin near Lake Michigan
Source⇝ Own Audible Audiobook
๏ ๏ ๏
Profile Image for Donna.
1,167 reviews
February 27, 2012
I've been sitting on reviewing DROWNING INSTINCT for about two months now, doing the Homer Simpson "I wanna" dance waiting for Carolrhoda Lab's special week so I can finally put it up. And now I'm faced with what to say. What can I say other than Ilsa's done it yet again? She's ripped my heart out, stomped on it, sewed it back together and gently placed it back in my chest. I cried like a freaking baby at the end of DROWNING INSTINCT. It's hard to see such a sad character lose a rare piece of happiness in her life.

DROWNING INSTINCT was also the book that made me realize that I needed to step away from these kind of contemporaries for a while. It's so real and honest and gritty that it hurts me to read. As much as I shy away from the prospect of loinfruit, to see a child hurting kills me. Ilsa killed me with Jenna. She was so wounded and so alone and when she finally found the support she needed it was wrenched away from her again. And the story leaves you hanging. Kind of. You know what happens but you really DON'T. You can kinda tell how Jenna's going to do but you don't REALLY know and it's a killer. Is she okay, Ilsa? Please tell me.

Like DRAW THE DARK the story is a bit drawn out and slow at points but that's really the only nominally negative thing I can say about DROWNING INSTINCT and Ilsa's writing in general. She gets so thoroughly into her characters' heads its scary, like she could be automatic writing with a ghost or something. Or she trances out and channels the characters living inside of her. When she's writing she's not Ilsa, she's Jenna and that's why it feels so realistic. That's why every pang and pain and piece of anger jumps off of the page, grabs you by the collar and shakes you until you feel it too. It can't be helped. The story won't let you walk away without feeling something.

Jenna isn't just your average overcoming, strong heroine. She's life. She's reality. She's a piece of soul torn and put through the wringer. It's like you can hear her whispering the story in your ear. As she's talking into that recorder the cop gave her, it's like she's sitting right next to you and she's looking you dead in the eye while she's telling it. She isn't just a character that's been through some terrible crap. She hit the delete button at the end of the story and you don't even know if there's hope. But you pray there is. Because you're looking at her and you have to hope. You have to carry on her hope.

Before I completely jump off the cliff of nonsensical fangirling praise, I'm ending this here. DROWNING INSTINCT is as gritty at they come. It's realistic, poignant and will punch you in the gut by the end of the book. You will feel everything Jenna does. You will go through all of her ups and downs with her, even when you think you probably shouldn't. You still will. And then you'll get to the end and try to will more pages to appear because it can't end there. It just can't.
Profile Image for Inger.
72 reviews16 followers
September 13, 2014
'People drown, quietly, before our eyes, all the time.' - Ilsa J. Bick (Acknowledgments in 'Drowning Instinct')

It's been long since I read a book that intense and believe me 'intense' is just the word to describe it.
Maybe it's the title? 'Cause when you've finished this book you just want to cry by simply reading this two words.

By telling her story with a tape recorder to the police one feels incredibly near to the narrator, Jenna. And she's not just any main character you have in random books, she's one of the kind that just stick with you. So for a change the reader gets to really know the main character, can empathize with her and is completely sucked in. It's like you hear Jenna's voice next to you, telling you her feelings and her thoughts while reliving this conflicted story.

I've read a couple "student-teacher-relationship" books, also recently, but believe me when I say that none of them can be compared to 'Drowning Instinct'.
This story is and feels so unbelievably real, 'cause there aren't as much of these ya-contemporary elements (know what I mean?). We are dealing with real characters, who are hurt in more than one way and try to deal with it.

Aside from that, I also think the romance between Jenna and Mitch is more realistic. We don't know the real age of Mitch but he sure isn't a 20-year-old who happens to be an early graduate, he's a normal teacher (I think that circumstance is often used to downplay the situation...).
Their feelings for each other develop slowly so one believes in their sincerity, still there were some parts I just wanted to tell them 'Stop', because it's wrong and that also made me cry for them.

Throughout the entire book you have this anxious feeling, waiting for the inevitable to happen as it is implied in the first lines of the book. And exactly this feeling is one of the things that causes this novel to be a real page turner.

Summing it up:
This story is real, heartbreaking, emotional, intense.
It leaves you unsatisfied with unanswered questions, mixed thoughts about what now really happened and downright emotionally wrecked.

And just a little extra note, because I'm a big fan of a book's last lines: These were absolutely perfect.

Profile Image for Parker.
126 reviews
October 2, 2013
I know everyone else seemed to love this book, but I hated it. I had three main problems with the story.
1. I didn't like Jenna.I didn't like how she was so wrapped up in herself. There's this one particular scene that made me hate her.It's when after her dad closes her mom's bookstore and Jenna thinks that her parent's deserve each other. That's not how I saw it. I think Jenna's mother was a victim of her husband and also of her hard life that's similar to Jenna's,except they cope in different destructive ways,by Jenna's mom getting drunk and Jenna cutting. I think Jenna should have been more sympathetic to her mother.
2. I didn't like how the author pretty much stuffed her with almost every psychological problem she could have. It felt like she was milking all of it so the audience would feel bad for Jenna's sob story.
3. At the end of the story, when Jenna finds out the Mr.Anderson (spoilers) stalked her, and goes back over things he said, the author doesn't exactly let us know the full extent of his lies, or the full extent of how much he was stalking her. Most people said that the scene where Jenna finds out about being stalked by Mr.Anderson was put in to show that not everyone's bad or good. To me the part just came off confused, like the author said "I'm going to write a book about a nice pedophile." and as she was wrapping up her story, she realized that this guy couldn't be perfect-so she threw the lying and stalking in.
4. I don't think the book really examined the fact the Mr. Anderson is a pedophile. I don't think the word pedophile is ever used in the book. Jenna taunts the detective with details about her and Mr.Anderson, and she kind of seems to relish the taboo.
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