I Wish the Ocean Was Warm, I Feel Like Drowning: Drowning Instinct by Ilsa J. Bick

What I knew about Drowning Instinct before reading it: Nothing. I loved the cover. I occasionally talk to Ilsa Bick on Twitter about challah and rugelach. I might have read a synopsis at one point, but by the time I read the book, I’d forgotten what it said.

What you should know about Drowning Instinct before reading it: Almost nothing. Drowning Instinct is a book that reveals its secrets slowly. You know how rollercoasters you ride in the dark are always scarier than the ones where you can see the twists and turns up ahead? Drowning Instinct is a rollercoaster ride best taken in the dark. So I’m not going to tell you much about the plot. If you’re one of those people that feels the need to know those sorts of details ahead of time, there are plenty of others who will be happy to share them, I’m sure.

Here is what I will tell you about Drowning Instinct: It is BRILLIANT.

Drowning Instinct explores the ways in which people suffer silently, drowning on the inside, while looking perfectly fine to an outsider. Like the characters in Drowning Instinct, this book has a lot going on beneath the surface. Bick takes some big, bold risks, and they pay off. With a multitude of subplots woven together by conversational (and perhaps unreliable) narration, I never quite knew where the story was going, how it would find its way full circle, or how much I could believe. Bick kept me on edge from beginning to end. This is a one-sitting read; I could not put it down. To put it bluntly, Drowning Instinct is a total mindfuck.

You should not read Drowning Instinct if you are not comfortable floating within gray areas. The characters are not clearly good or evil, predator or prey. They are flawed and they are vulnerable, but ultimately they are only trying to do what is right for themselves. Ambiguity is abundant and it makes the novel simultaneously frustrating and thrilling. Outside of Dexter, I have never rooted so hard for something that felt so wrong. Drowning Instinct will call your morals into question. It is thought-provoking in the best kind of way: It grabbed hold of me and would not let go. Bick’s latest novel begs to be discussed.

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14 Responses to "I Wish the Ocean Was Warm, I Feel Like Drowning: Drowning Instinct by Ilsa J. Bick"

  • Holy effing shit, Melanie. I want to read this book yesterday. YOU KNOW I LOVE THE MIND SCREWERY. I love the slow reveal of secrets and I want to seriously drop everything to shut myself out from the world now to read this. Was it similar to Frost? In the way that it was super disturbing and cray cray?

    1 Jen said this (January 24, 2012 at 11:08 AM)


    • I think you will love it. And I would like you to read it immediately so we can talk about it.

      Definitely some similarities to Frost in the mental instability of the narrator. And they share the whole psychological thriller thing.

      I started this last Saturday morning and did not stop until I was done, with the exception of a few interruptions from puppies. Mind screwery, ftw.

      2 Melanie said this (January 24, 2012 at 11:18 AM)


  • Wonderfully said! I posted my review of this book today too. It made me uncomfortable, but it’s very thought provoking. I like the comparison to Dexter — different, but kind of evokes the same feelings…

    3 Annette said this (January 24, 2012 at 11:16 AM)


    • Yeah, totally different subject areas, but same sort of squirminess and moral ambiguity.

      4 Melanie said this (January 24, 2012 at 11:21 AM)


  • Sounds like a NEED TO READ book to me. I rarely hear expletives coming from you. If it bought out that kind of emotion, that makes me want to read it even more!

    5 Judy said this (January 24, 2012 at 3:02 PM)


    • You should definitely read it. I will help make that happen.

      6 Melanie said this (January 24, 2012 at 4:48 PM)


  • I love grey areas! And vulnerability! And the fact that you wrote “grey” instead of “gray” but that’s besides the point!

    Dang: “Outside of Dexter, I have never rooted so hard for something that felt so wrong.” Just. Dang.

    7 capillya said this (January 24, 2012 at 9:28 PM)


    • I like to pretend I’m British from time to time. Maybe in another post I’ll start throwing extra u’s around just for the fun of it.

      8 Melanie said this (January 24, 2012 at 10:48 PM)


  • Okay. Must find this book, and pray it’s in some kind of accessible format! How I handle grey areas depends so much on what’s in question. One way to find out how I’d handle these–must read!

    9 Amy said this (January 24, 2012 at 10:19 PM)


    • Hope you’re able to find it!! Would love to hear what you think 🙂

      10 Melanie said this (January 24, 2012 at 10:48 PM)


  • You’ve sold me! I’ll be reading this one after I finish New Girl.

    11 Shari B. said this (January 24, 2012 at 11:10 PM)


    • WIN! You have no idea how happy that makes me 🙂

      I hope you love it.

      12 Melanie said this (January 24, 2012 at 11:11 PM)


Ping- & Trackbacks

  1. Cover Love … and DROWNING INSTINCT Winner! : Paperback Writer: The Online Home for Ilsa J. Bick February 13, 2012 at 9:33 AM
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