REVIEW: "Drowning Instinct", by Ilsa J Bick

Title: Drowning Instinct
Author: Ilsa J. Bick
Narrated by: Kathleen McInerney
Format: Unabridged Audiobook
Length: 9 hrs and 46 mins
Audible Release Date: 05/03/2012
Publisher: Audible Inc.

Taken From Audible

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 16 years were not exactly a fairy tale. 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 Iraq. And then, of course, there was the time she almost died in a fire. There are stories where the monster gets the girl, and everyone cries 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.


I finished this book earlier this week and have delayed writing my review because I was so conflicted when I first completed it. Usually, when I allow myself to step away from a book and get some perspective on the story, it helps me to make up my mind about how I really feel about things. Unfortunately, I'm not any clearer now than I was when I finished it! 

My mixed feelings don't concern the actual writing. As I've found in the past with Draw The Dark and Ashes, both by Ilsa J Bick, the writing was powerful. She creates another vivid character in Jenna Lord and Kathleen McInerney voiced her wonderfully. Some of the beautifully crafted language was slightly at odds with the structure as the book is meant to be a narration of events, by sixteen year old Jenna, into a dictaphone. However, if you allow yourself to suspend your disbelief a little, then this is no biggie.

My ambivalence is primarily caused by the subject matter. As you can probably guess from the blurb, the story is centred around the developing relationship between Jenna and her teacher. 

"...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.)"

This part of the blurb sort of sums up my problem. I just don't know what to think about Jenna and Mitch's relationship! You might assume from the premise that Mitch is a monster or a predator, but he wasn't. Or at least, Jenna didn't think he was. The first person narrative works excellently here because Jenna might be honest, but that doesn't mean she's reliable. 

I liked the book - I'm going to give it plenty of stars - but I liked it because of how brilliantly Bick's writing draws you in. I didn't like the story, I'll admit that, but I'm not sure you're meant to. I think it's one of those books where you read (or listen) in wide eyed horror. I found myself grimacing over much of the narration because I found it dark. But the really dark thing about the story is that, sometimes, I found myself rooting for them! 

I think this is going to be a controversial book because of the YA audience. People will assume that young adults won't have the intelligence or the sophistication to understand that Jenna's narrative is biased. Maybe they'll see this book's message as one of hope for their  own schoolgirl crushes or an endorsement for the old cliché that love can conquer all. In a way, this is true... but I think that any audience, young adult or not, has its dopes. 

Overall, this was a fascinating, if disturbing, read. It's a book that you really need to read yourself before judging or making assumptions. If you do, I'd love to hear what you think in the comments below!


  1. I already have this book in my wishlist, the blurb is really intriguing, and from your review, it sounds like it's a book that really makes you think and that's good.
    Can't wait to read it :)

    Read Into Hiding

  2. i read this on NetGalley a while back and like you loved the writing and how the story was told and was thrown all out of sorts about the relationships because you want to root for happy times but it's not clear cut who's right and wrong. This is part of why I loved the book though cause it was all a shade of grey. In a good way

  3. Ive still not got round to reading any Ilsa Black but I really need to, I've heard amazing things about her writing! This sounds really interesting too so I might have to check it out. I will let you know what I think when I get round to it!

  4. Ooooo, that's a tough one. Just reading *about* it is conflicting :o


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