Review: Drowning Instinct by Ilsa J. Bick

September 2, 2013 Review 36 ★★★★½

Review: Drowning Instinct by Ilsa J. Bick
Drowning Instinct by Ilsa J. Bick
(Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository)

Publisher: Lerner Publishing
Source: Borrowed
Pages: 352
Release Date: February 1st, 2012
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
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.


After I posted my review of The Truth About You & Me, a few comments came in talking about a book called DROWNING INSTINCT  telling me to check it out. I added it to Goodreads, not expecting to get to it for awhile. But then people commented on my Goodreads feed telling me to read it-even on Twitter! After that, I knew this was a book I just had to pick up. Immediately. Peer pressure and all that.

This book is similar to The Truth About You & Me by way of subject matter and unique narration style, but these are two books that are so ridiculously different, in a good way. DROWNING INSTINCT makes you feel ALL the emotions, and the soul-ripping ending will leave you just sitting there for awhile repeating “What just happened?” over and over again.

“This is a fairy tale with teeth and claws.”

Jenna’s hasn’t had the greatest go at life lately, and her parents are at the end of their rope when it comes to their marriage. Not to mention Jenna’s brother left for Afghanistan so she has no one to talk to or be supported by. Until she meets Mr. Anderson, who is just the kind the person she could use as a source for encouragement.

“The grief in her green eyes slips then hardens and, for an instant, Pendleton sees the woman she has become and has no right being, not at sixteen.”

The greatest thing about this book is that it can be interpreted so many ways. There is an open ending, but for once, that didn’t bother. Sure, it leaves you with a lot of questions, but that it what makes the book so amazing, in my opinion. Is Mr. Anderson really a good guy? Why was he hiding so many things? You can only really guess the answers to these questions and create the ending for Jenna that you are happy with.

Besides making you feel so many emotions, another strong point of this book is the gorgeous writing. There are so many powerful quotes in this that really stick with you but my favorite was the one relating to the book’s title:

“They call it the drowning instinct. It’s when drowning doesn’t look like drowning. … you don’t look like you’re in trouble. You don’t scream, but that’s because you can’t… You’re just there…”

A must read for contemporary fans.

Rating Report
Overall: 4.5

36 Responses to “Review: Drowning Instinct by Ilsa J. Bick”

  1. Mel@thedailyprophecy

    Open endings.. Even when people say they work, I’m always disappointed by them. I just can’t handle them and I always feel like someone ripped out the last pages of my book. Despite that, I like the sound of this book, but I’m hesitant to read it soon. Great review though!
    Mel@thedailyprophecy recently posted…Fairytale read-a-thon.

    • Alise

      Yeah, I used to feel that way too, I completely avoided books like that. I think so many contemporary reads are like that nowadays I just sorted of adapted to it, ha! Thanks!

  2. Bookworm1858

    I love that one of your tags is “what the what.” I already had this on my to-read list but after enjoying The Truth About You and Me, I think I might be bumping it up as well as I’m intrigued by what sounds like a very different take.
    Bookworm1858 recently posted…The Boy on the Bridge

  3. Becca @ Nawanda Files

    I’ve heard such good things about this one! Glad it was a winner for you. And I love the quotes you picked — I re-read the last one. It gave me chills! I think someone spoiled the ending of this for me, so I haven’t read it. But now that you said it’s open for interpretation, I may actually look into picking it up :D
    Becca @ Nawanda Files recently posted…Monthly Highlights: August 2013

    • Alise

      Yikes, I hate when people do that, aha. Yeah, there are so many possibilities so you can choose whatever one you will happy with :)

  4. Christina @ Christina Reads YA

    It’s nice that your readers gave you a recommendation that you ended up following through with and loving. Peer pressure for the win in this case, I should think :). I haven’t read The Truth About You and Me – just seen that pretty cover – and for some reason I keep getting it mixed up with the cover that’s got the slash across the girl’s mouth… sounds like that’s a mistake to have happened as you rated that title pretty highly too. I’ve heard really wonderful things about this one – the gorgeous writing, the moral ambiguity. I like that it has an open ending. Seems like the only kind of ending you could have for this novel that would feel right. And those quotes you chose? Yessss. This one has actually been in my Amazon checkout for awhile now. If only you ladies didn’t post about the 10 ways to survive a book buying ban ;), I’d have already had this one.
    Christina @ Christina Reads YA recently posted…Christina Read: The Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jess Rothenberg

    • Alise

      Aha, yes, it can be a good thing! All the Truth That’s in Me? Haha yeah, the titles are pretty similar but definitely different stories. You are so right, and I think that’s why I didn’t mind this ending, it just fit. LOL ah yes, but after we posted “10 reasons to BREAK a book buying ban” ;)

  5. tonyalee

    I was beside myself when I saw you were reading this! I LOOOOVED IT.

    I agree with you about the ending, it was one of those “But.. but.. WHAT HAPPENED?” I liked it here. giving us enough information to fill in our OWN gaps. This book had me thinking over and over and over again about what is right, what is wrong and all that in between.

    Glad you loved it! :) Great Review
    tonyalee recently posted…Decatur Book Festival~ Day 1 Wrap up

    • Alise

      Yeah, totally. For a minute I was furious, and then I realized it was a pretty good ending. I like that fact, you took the words right out of my mouth :) Thanks :)

  6. Charlotte @ Gypsy Reviews

    You know already how I feel about this book but oh boy it was good. I liked the ending actually, I think it fit with the story very well, knowing too much might have spoiled it for us. I was quite surprised by what Jenna concluded at the end and how she found closure.

  7. Aman

    I never would have picked up this book from the synopsis alone, I don’t like knowing beforehand that there is no happy ending. But after your review, I’m a little swayed. I want to know Mr. Anderson’s secrets so bad!! I might pick it up if I saw it in a bookstore. Wonderful review, Alise :)
    Aman recently posted…Would You Rather?

  8. Kim { Book Swoon }

    Wow Alise, this one sounds so different.The first sentences really caught my attention “There are stories where the girl gets her prince, and they live happily ever after. (This is not one of those stories).” I might have to pick this one up- just to find out more about Mr. Anderson! Thanks for the great review. :)

  9. Romi Foster

    I heard about this one ages ago and at first really wanted to read it, thinking it sounded like something I might take interest in, but then I decided against it and took it off my tbr. The thing that really continues to draw me are the quotes, particularly the first one in this review- it seems to have almost an element of the fairytale, and that really intrigues me. I think I’m going to add it to my tbr again! Great review, Alise.

    • Alise

      I go through and clean out books too, then later add then back, LOL. It’s weird because the books I am most hesitant on seem to be the ones I enjoy. Thanks!

    • Alise

      Thanks! I hope you get the chance to read it soon, it’s one of the few books where the hype is actually deserved, in my opinion!

  10. Lauren

    Ooh I definitely want to read this now! I haven’t been peer pressured like you, but it just sounds like such a beautiful, emotional read. I like Ilsa’s Ashes series, so I’ll definitely give this a try. Lovely review!

    • Alise

      Thanks! I hear a lot of people saying how much they like the Ashes series so I will definitely be checking that out soon!

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