Drowning Instinct: What Is Bick Really Trying To Say Here?

Drowning Instinct is written by Ilsa J. Bick. It was published in 2012 by Carolrhoda Lab. Bick’s website can be found here.

Genre: Realistic, Tough Read


“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 fairy tale. 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 everyone cries 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.”

~Inside flap


“I had turned to stone. I just…Bob, I just couldn’t move. You have no idea, or maybe you do. Like when you first saw the girl who would be your wife….Maybe it wasn’t a thunderbolt moment for you, but even my parents, as messed up as they are, remember the instant they first laid eyes on each other. So I remember every second o that first time.

He was…

He was beautiful, like something out of a dream. When he shrugged into a pale blue button-down, sunlight rippled over valleys made of muscle and that smooth, smooth skin. His hair, dark and curly, fired with red and blond highlights. His movements were fluid and graceful and utterly unselfconscious because he thought he was alone. He was a demigod, and I was, well…awed. Like someone this perfect just couldn’t be.

I know that sounds hokey to you, Bob. But that’s how I felt. That’s the truth and that very first moment of sun and light and beauty is one I will never, ever forget.”

~Bick 22

Cover Art

Warnings: Swearing, mentions of self-harm, teacher/student relationship, drinking, abuse, violence, and other material of that kind.

Recommended Age Range: Hesitant 16+

Rating: 2/5

What I Liked: 

I always wonder why I keep reading books like these when I know I’m not going to like the content. Well, I know the answer. It’s because they’re so well-written. Even I don’t like the content of a book, I still enjoy reading it because of the way it is written. And this book is very well-written. Bick used a unique style and it really worked well.

What I Didn’t Like:

So…what am I supposed to think? Was Mr. Anderson lying or was he telling the truth, as Jenna believes? Was Jenna just deluded and being used? What was really going on with Danielle? Is Bick trying to say that a romantic relationship between a teacher and a student is okay because they apparently love each other? Because, if so, I completely and utterly disagree. Violently so. I don’t want to get into a whole rant about it, but suffice it to say, I think that if Bick’s intention was to say that love is the only thing that matters and not age or maturity or appropriateness or anything else, then that is an incredibly dangerous and damaging message. Of course, she could have just been trying to get into the mind of a psychologically damaged teenager, or saying how easily teenagers can be led astray by adult figures, but Jenna doesn’t think she was led astray, and the readers will more easily associate with Jenna. But maybe I’m underestimating the readers.

McKayla is not impressed by Drowning Instinct.

Overall Review:

Drowning Instinct is very well-written, but the topic it addresses leaves much to be desired and, in my opinion, is incredibly damaging if taken the wrong way. I hesitate to even recommend this book to teenagers.

Coming Up Next: The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen

One thought on “Drowning Instinct: What Is Bick Really Trying To Say Here?

  1. I think her intentions are very clear if you just look at the blurb from the inside flap. Has a book ever been better summed up by a blurb? Doubt it. “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.”

    It isn’t saying that a student/teacher relationship is okay, it’s saying the lines aren’t always cut and dry. Prince vs. Monster or Victim vs. Princess. Maybe there is a middle ground.

    I don’t think it in anyway condones their relationship, it just makes people look at things a little differently and see that people aren’t all good or all bad. I think the excerpt Jenna focuses in on from the whale book is also very important in all of this.

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