Pages: 354 (e-ARC)
Release Date: January 28, 2012 by Lerner Publishing Group
Source: Netgalley for review, thanks!
There are stories where the girl gets her prince, and they live happily ever after. (This is not one of those stories.)Review
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...Goodreads
I loved Bick's Ashes. It was super intense and thrilling as characters struggled to survive a vastly different world post EMP. Drowning Instinct doesn't deal with the end of the world, but it is about survival. It's hard hitting and intense in a much more emotional way, as actions spin out of control and there comes a point where you have to let go, and there's no turning back.
First I'd like to address the title. The facts of the 'drowning instinct' come up several times in the book. Basically it's when someone is on the verge of drowning. There's no splashing or panicking, because the victim's body has already given up. In the context of the story, someone could be 'drowning', and onlookers wouldn't even know it. I thought this was a very subtle way to give a theme to the whole book. Just because someone looks ok on the outside, doesn't mean they're not struggling.
The book starts with Jenna in the hospital. There she meets Detective Pendleton, Bob, for the second time in her life. He wants to know what happened, and gives her a digital recorder to tell her story.
Jenna hasn't had the easiest life. The starting point came from her near death in a fire at her grandfather's house. It was only the quick thinking and bravery of her older brother Matt who dragged her out, clothes still aflame. She survives, but is left with huge scars, her 'wings', on her back. Then Matt, her saviour, the one she relies on, who keeps the family together, leaves for Afghanistan. Jenna starts cutting as a way to escape her mother's drinking, her father's absence. Emails Matt regularly to have some sort of lifeline. She eventually gets caught, and she finds herself at a new school. It's there that she meets Mitch Anderson, her chemistry teacher, who immediately senses how broken she is and takes her under his wing, treats her with the care and respect she never got from her parents.
I've read one other book about a student-teacher affair and that one was very much more clearcut in terms of the abuse aspect. Very black and white. Drowning Instinct, however, I see in many shades of grey. The summary does a fantastic job of explaining this--who is the victim and who is the monster? While reading, I knew what was happening, what was being allowed to happen, was wrong on many levels, that both Jenna and Mitch, especially Mitch, should've known better. But at the same time, I couldn't help but be happy that two people who clearly had problems in their lives could find comfort and love in each other. And they were so real. Jenna was a normal teenager and Mitch was a genuinely nice guy I probably would've loved to have as a teacher too. These grey areas were especially hard hitting. Mitch and Jenna spend some time circling each other, almost testing the waters before jumping in, and it's this steady buildup to what we know is going to happen that brings such an intensity and a frantic sense of anticipation to the story.
What I found even more fantastic about Drowning Instinct was the sense of foreboding. Whether it was at Jenna's home, her school or when she was with Mitch, I had a sense that something was building in the background. Questions are raised and secrets are revealed. Lies are told and found out. There were quite a few shockers that I was not expecting. Ilsa knows how to keep a reader on their toes always. I was thouroughly engaged, and like in the summary, found this story especially interesting.
Drowning Instinct is definitely a book that will get you thinking. Don't go into it thinking about the subject matter, because it's not only a story about that. It's a story about two flawed characters who find solace amid their chaotic lives. It's intense and dramatic and it might make you uncomfortable at the same time it's warming your heart. Stunning.