Review: Drowning Instinct by Ilsa J. Bick

Drowning Instinct
By Ilsa J. Bick
352 Pages
Published by Lerner Publishing Group
Publication Date: February 1, 2012
Source: Library

From Goodreads:

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.

I should state for the record that I hardly went into this book unbiased. I’m a huge fan of Ilsa J. Bick. After reading Ashes I practically started a fan club, so it was with mixed excitement and trepidation that I went into Drowning Instinct. On one hand, hi, I loved Ashes more than my luggage. On the other hand, could this possibly live up? Would I love it or would it let me down in a big way? The answer was somewhere in the middle. While I didn’t love it as much as Ashes, I really did like it a whole heck of a lot and I certainly felt no disappointment whatsoever.

To start with, Drowning Instinct is full of really despicable people. Even Jenna, the main character, is an unreliable narrator and a bit hard to like. Even the people who you feel like you should like are majorly flawed in some way. And I do mean MAJORLY flawed. Without giving too much away, it’s really a stomach clenching business. People who seem like heroes are anything but. Terrible things are swept under the rug. It’s not an easy book to read. In spite of that, it’s rather slow moving and quiet. It’s not filled with action. It is a very character driven piece.

I loved the format of the book. When we start, the narrator, Jenna, is in the hospital recovering from something. We’re not told what. Her story unfolds through a recording that she’s making for the sheriff, so she’s talking to him as she’s telling the events leading up to her hospitalization. This was really different, I can’t recall offhand reading another book that did this, although I’m sure they must be out there. It was a bit hard to believe that Jenna could repeat these conversations verbatim, but that didn’t affect my enjoyment of the book at all.

This is a really deep book. As I said, it’s not an easy book to read and it certainly won’t be for everyone. If you’re looking for a fluffy feel-good novel you should avoid this one. If you want something that is challenging and offers no easy answers, I recommend giving it a try.

4.25/5 Stars

Leave a comment


  1. Wow, this seems like a super intense read. I haven’t read Ashes yet but I have a copy of it so I’ll probably read it soon. I always think it’s interesting when characters are despicable yet the book is SO GOOD. I will definitely give this book a shot when I want something a bit more cerebral. Great review!

    • It is intense! It deals with some pretty heavy subjects. I would put it for sure in the more cerebral category. It’s not a light or beachy read. And totally read Ashes, especially if you have a copy of it!

  2. Wow, sounds very interesting, and I really like the cover! Maybe I should check out Ashes as well. Very nice review 🙂

    • Yes, definitely check out Ashes! It’s seriously one of the best books I’ve read this year and I am constantly recommending it to everyone.

  3. What the heck?? Color me intrigued. I want to know what’s going on. I’m glad you enjoyed this, despite the minor bits that bugged you. Iust add this to my tbr.
    Great review!


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