Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Drowning Instinct

Ilsa J. Bick is a master of dark novels that suck in the reader. Her post-apocalyptic Ashes kept me up all night, and Drowning Instinct is a book that will stay with me, as well.

Our heroine, if she can be called that, is Jenna, a sixteen-year-old who has been dealt a rotten hand. She was almost killed in a fire during childhood, leaving her with scars (aside from the ones she gives herself), her mother is an alcoholic who is losing her bookstore, and her father is controlling and abusive. Usually young adult characters with miserable lives have one bright spot, yet Jenna's is in the past--her brother has shipped out to Iraq and left with no support. It is in this state that she meets the charismatic science teacher, Mitch Anderson.

As a teacher, I am particularly squeamish about student-teacher romances in novels, yet Bick is successful in portraying the relationship as objectively as possible. I still thought Mr. Anderson was a creep, but Bick makes it difficult to condemn him wholeheartedly. He is the only adult who cares about Jenna, and if his kindness is a welcome respite for the reader, one can only imagine how important it is to Jenna. Even as Mr. Anderson's character became darker, I wanted to postpone the inevitable end of their relationship because it provided temporary hope for Jenna.

Anyone who is familiar with Bick's work knows that this novel is challenging, gritty, and exquisite. It's worth picking up, if only to make you grateful for what you have.

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