Friday, June 8, 2012

Book Talk: DROWNING INSTINCT by Ilsa J. Bick

Here's the thing, folks. Ilsa J. Bick is awesome. I would read a book about ham sandwiches if she wrote it. She's not afraid to look at the hard topics, the questions of right and wrong and the places in between. She converted me to a zombie fan with ASHES and had me up all night with DRAW THE DARK. But DROWNING INSTINCT is a different kind of story, like the flap says, it's a story 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.)

Jenna Lord has no one she can count on - not her drunk mother, her absent father, or the older brother who has been shipped to Afghanistan. For so long the only thing that has given her any relief from reality is the slip of a sharp object against her already-scarred skin, the rise of blood to the surface. But that habit landed her somewhere her doctor father doesn't like to talk about, and her move to a new school is supposed to have all the answers.

New school. New friends. Goodbye old problems.

Instead she loads herself up with new problems, immediately (and accidentally) making an enemy out of Danielle, a girl she immediately knows is just as "broken" as she is. Danielle's jealousy flares when Mr. Anderson - the chemistry teacher and girl's cross-country coach - makes Jenna his TA instead of her. Even though she likes Mr. Anderson, Jenna resists joining the team because of the ill-will she feels pouring out of Danielle.

Mr. Anderson insists she run with him to stay in shape, and as their runs become longer and more private he unearths Jenna's secrets; truths buried so deep inside she hasn't acknowledged them herself. Memories of the grandfather who touched her too often and the fire that killed him, the same fire that covered her body in the burns she hides from others in the locker room. The truth about why her brother never responds to her emails, and the frailty of her family situation are all drawn out by Mr. Anderson, who becomes Jenna's only friend and confidant.

And then more...

DROWNING INSTINCT takes the reader down paths they aren't expecting, and looks straight into the gray area between the black and white, where no one is truly bad or good. There are simply people.

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