Thursday, August 08, 2013

Drowning Instinct, by Ilsa J. Bick

The story opens with a detective handing Jenna a Dictaphone to record her side of the "story." But not knowing how Jenna ended up being a person of interest or what the detective is investigating, we spend the rest of the novel in anticipation of having that story unravel.

I was very reminded of American Beauty and the way we start off knowing the ending, but not how it began  Like that story, there are plenty of distractions along the way:  Jenna's abusive parents, her psychiatric illnesses, her absent brother, a zealous and attentive (or maybe overly attentive) teacher, a jealous classmate, some lecherous adults, and so on.  It's complicated, but in the end I'm not really sure what the point was, except to spin an elaborate whodunnit.

More distracting is the character of Jenna herself who is wise beyond her years and more articulate than humans - of any age - are ever likely to be.  How Bick, who claims to be a child psychologist, could write such an unconvincingly and inauthentic adolescent voice is beyond me.  At best, this is Jenna some fifteen years later on a shrink's couch recounting her youth.  But it is certainly not the voice of a sixteen year-old girl.  It's barely even human.

All that said, the story is taut and fast-paced.  You won't be bored reading the book.  You may even have trouble putting it down.  I read it to the end, mostly because I madly wanted to know how it began.  But in the aftermath, I really don't know if I would recommend that someone else start it.

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