Bites

Published February 1, 2011.

Author website.

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 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 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.) (netgalley.com)

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.


Ban Factor: High – Student/teacher relationship? I can hear the banner squeals already.

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