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Drowning Instinct (The Ashes Trilogy) Paperback – 28 Feb 2013
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'A novel of pain, desperation and romance that breaks all the rules. A brilliant read' Kiss magazine. (Kiss magazine)
'Compelling, thoughtful and beautifully written. I adored every word of it and I implore each and every one of you to go and read it' So Little Time For Reading. (So Little Time For Reading)
'Every page simmers with suspense, and the knowledge that something big is coming, something bad bubbling under the surface ... Jenna's story captivated me' The Bookbag. (Bookbag)
A dark tale of love against the odds - and the rules.See all Product description
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At 16 you expect to meet your prince. Jenna's prince is Mr Anderson, her chemistry teacher. He is intelligent, handsome and very much married. Teachers can be an important factor in your life when you are 16. They inspire, encourage and you can forge a strong bond with them - Jenna did.
This is not your typical young adult novel nor is it a typical love story but for me it IS a love story. It is a story about two very flawed people - it is not black or white. How could I possibly oppose the actions of two people who were genuinely good for each other, in love, despite the less than perfect circumstances they find themselves in?
Jenna has suffered a lot of different abuse in her young life and has just got out of a psychiatric ward for self harming. All she wants is someone to listen to her, love her and protect her.
Mitch Anderson just wants to be loved and needed and to know that someone else wants him.
For some of you, Drowning Instinct will be an uncomfortable and painful read but for me it made something ugly - beautiful.
Isla Blick has written a brilliant, intense and compelling novel. Sometimes even good people, with the best of intentions, make bad decisions. So if you are willing to with hold judgement and be able to see things from other points of view then I am sure you will find plenty to like in this story.
It is a stunning ride with an emotional conclusion and deserves far more attention that is has received.
The novel is narrated by Jenna, and gets the tone of the teenage girl spot on. Jenna is a troubled teen - we recognise immediately that she is in some kind of hospital and quickly learn that this is not her first hospital stay. She was, relatively recently, released from a psychiatric ward after cutting herself. But we don't know why she is in hospital on this occasion. The pace of the novel is perfect, steadily moving towards the conclusion (which is, of course, the starting point as well) without rushing things or anticipating the twists and turns of Jenna and Mitch's relationship.
Drowning Instinct is Jenna's account of what happened between her first hospital release and the present day, as spoken into a dictaphone left by Bob, a friendly policeman who visits her in the hospital. Personally, I really liked this technique. Although there is a disconnect between the dictaphone idea and the level of detail in Jenna's account of dialogue from months past, narrating it in this way really brings Jenna to life and prevents the reader taking a fully objective view of her story and her relationship with Mitch. It's all too easy to forget that, while she is extremely honest and uncensored, Jenna is not necessarily reliable as a narrator. This can make for slightly uncomfortable reading, as you realise every so often that you're rooting for things to work out for the couple despite knowing that there's something not right about it.
Mitch is Mr Anderson - intelligent, handsome, married and Jenna's chemistry teacher. Initially, he is just a friendly member of staff whose attempts to get her on the cross-country team are a welcome distraction from her dark past and difficult home life. She pushes aside rumours of his reputation, and slightly enjoys the fact that the most popular girl in her class appears jealous of her. Soon their shared interest in running spills over into non-school hours and Jenna finds herself glad that someone wants to spend time with her, worries about her and is prepared to listen to her. But when Jenna's parents take a trip away, emotions run high and events come to a head, culminating in Jenna being visited by Bob the policeman in her hospital bed.
The teacher-pupil relationship is the key narrative thread, but there is more to the novel than this. This is Jenna's story more broadly, that of a damaged young woman who craves a more stable and conventional home life, wishes she fit in at school, and doesn't have a healthy outlet for her anxieties. While Jenna is more troubled than most, she is very easy to identify with and certainly my attitude towards her was predominantly sympathetic. This is another reason perhaps why it's so hard to flat-out condemn the relationship she develops with Mr Anderson.
Ilsa J. Bick has been quite clever in crafting this novel, by sharing all of Jenna's world through her own eyes and voice. It's clear that Jenna's parents are not as present or attentive as they should be, and that she has not been given the support she needs. And seen through Jenna's eyes, Mr Anderson is someone who tries to help improve that situation, whilst simultaneously offering her friendship. Ordinarily, an adult male teacher embarking on a relationship with a teenage female pupil would quickly and easily be labelled predatory, or worse. Yes, objectively we might say that he has abused a position of responsibility and trust, but from inside Jenna's story it's hard to label him the irresponsible adult, the predatory monster.
I'd really recommend Drowning Instinct as a young adult read, or perhaps as something for parents to share with their teenagers, because of how sensitively it deals with a controversial, emotive topic. The writing is also worthy of recommendation, with an interesting narrative approach and a convincing voice, making it very readable and all the more impactful.
There's so many emotions running through me at the moment.
I know one thing, I'll not forget reading this - nor will I forget the heartache, love, mistrust, disappointment and ultimate hope? It's been a complex read without the book being difficult.
I feel a bit ruined, pulled through the ringer...
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