ARC Book Review: The Trouble with Destiny by Lauren Morrill

Posted November 19, 2015 by Debby in Book Reviews

I received this book for free from Publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!! This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

ARC Book Review: The Trouble with Destiny by Lauren MorrillThe Trouble with Destiny by Lauren Morrill
Published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers on December 8th, 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 272
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey...

With her trusty baton and six insanely organized clipboards, drum major Liza Sanders is about to take Destiny by storm—the boat, that is. When Liza discovered that her beloved band was losing funding, she found Destiny, a luxury cruise ship complete with pools, midnight chocolate buffets, and a $25,000 spring break talent show prize.

Liza can’t imagine senior year without the band, and nothing will distract her from achieving victory. She’s therefore not interested when her old camp crush, Lenny, shows up on board, looking shockingly hipster-hot. And she’s especially not interested in Russ, the probably-as-dumb-as-he-is-cute prankster jock whose ex, Demi, happens be Liza’s ex–best friend and leader of the Athenas, a show choir that’s the band’s greatest competition.

But it’s not going to be smooth sailing. After the Destiny breaks down, all of Liza’s best-laid plans start to go awry. Liza likes to think of herself as an expert at almost everything, but when it comes to love, she’s about to find herself lost at sea.

2.5 Stars

No one is more upset about this than I am. I loved Morrill’s debut Meant to Be so much that I was convinced I could soon add her to my favorite authors list. Cute, romantic books with real characters and personal resonance? That’s instant bait for a fluff-devourer like me. But The Trouble with Destiny was just… not really my cup of tea. And one book does not a favorite author make.

The Trouble with Destiny is basically A Midsummer Night’s Dream on a cruise ship between high school performing arts clubs with a super Disney Channel movie-like vibe. Now that’s the hook and, eventually, the downfall, for me. I love performing arts (having been in choir and drama club and being friends with many band geeks), I love “getting stuck together” kind of plots – in this case on a cruise ship with engine trouble, and I do like Disney Channel movies. But the overall execution of this fun, campy premise is shallow and so juvenile.

It starts with the main character: Liza. Liza is supposedly super responsible and highly motivated. She’s the drum major for her band, and she entered them into the competition on the cruise ship after finding out the secret that their band’s funding will be cut next year. She’s the only one who knows about this, because she doesn’t want to freak the others out. (Pitfall #1: trust your friends Liza. Just like it did for you, this would foster more motivation for them.) However, on this boat we see little of the hardworking, responsible personality she supposedly has: she freaks out about the competition – tearing her band apart and weirdly blowing up almost all their rehearsal time – and she gets drawn into romantic drama as if this is even remotely the time for that. I had just about no connection to her. I think she was supposed to be “real” to fellow teenagers, but I’m just not charmed by this kind of “realism”.

The romantic drama really is like A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which I now know for certain I need to avoid like the plague. I was neither here nor there with the play when I read it in high school, but wow, in a modern-day novel it does not work for me. Liza meets an old acquaintance from summer camp on the ship, Lenny, who she basically instantly has a gaga crush for. But her ex-best friend and nemesis, Demi, is also on the ship and seems to have something going on with Lenny… maybe. Demi’s ex is also present: Russ, the hilarious football player trapped into helping the band after playing a prank on them (wow, what a punishment, going on a cruise… can I go to this school??). It all sums up to a love square with so much jealousy and so many misunderstandings that it’s hard to find any ship to hold on to.

For the record, I did find myself cheering for Liza and Russ, for a variety of reasons. I mean, Russ is a lovable goof, for serious. But he’s also surprisingly genuine. It’s frustrating that Liza got so caught up in the drama that she missed what was glaringly, obviously right in front of her… It was so typical. It did not surprise me for a second. But they did have those few cute moments that motivated me enough to carry on with the story. For the record, their dynamic is not unlike Misaki and Usui in one of my all-time favorite mangas, Maid-sama!, and latching on to that analogy was basically my saving grace. At the end of the day though, even this ship didn’t give me super many feels.

What was also a super downer for me was all the mean girl stuff between Liza and Demi. I am so freaking tired of toxic female friendships. And yeah, this one had imploded years prior to the book, but the glaring, the incessant rivalry, the backstabbing, the insecurity – it was exhausting. I know that it’s kind of realistic – I had my fair share of frenemies in high school – but I’m so over this in YA lit. It’s so typical. I just can’t even bring myself to compliment the fact that they grow up a little during the trip and leave the past behind somewhat because it felt so shallow.

And finally, the plot was so vague and confusing that I can’t even. At the start of the book, Liza and her band members accidentally drop a bowling ball through a vent or chute or something in one of the rooms on the cruise ship, and later the engines start malfunctioning. But the competition and everything continues with basically no issue, and everyone just keeps on doing all the cruise ship stuff. I thought the ship was undergoing maintenance and thus stuck, but then they somehow end up docking in the Bahamas and continuing on – seriously WHAT? I don’t understand this, not even a little bit. Is it broken? Or not? Sailing? Or not? And if it isn’t, like I thought, shouldn’t they all be evacuated after it’s obviously not going to be fixed overnight? Serious plot holes, holy crap.

Summing Up:

Man, I really wish I’d liked this more, but it could have been so much better. The Trouble with Destiny was so bogged down by juvenile romantic drama and an intense mean girl rivalry that it was almost a chore to finish. The mishaps and misunderstandings that should have been cute and hilarious were just exhausting instead. I tried to hold on to my few shippy feels, but it didn’t really save this novel. Even for YA, this reads very young, though it might be entertaining to some. It kind of feels like a Disney Channel movie, and admittedly I think I would have liked a whole lot more in that format. I just expect a bit more depth from books.

GIF it to me straight!

Recommended To:

Younger YA readers, who enjoy romantic misunderstandings à la A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

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3 responses to “ARC Book Review: The Trouble with Destiny by Lauren Morrill

  1. This book! I was so underwhelmed 🙁 I’m not sure if you’ve read Becoming Sloane Jacobs but I didn’t love it as much as Meant to Be either (although I liked it more than this). I didn’t care about the characters and you’re right about Liza; for someone so responsible she sure didn’t act like it. And not in a believable “teenagers make mistakes” way, more like a dumb way. I also didn’t really ship anything? The Disney Channel comparison is so perfect; I wanted more High School Musical and it was more Teen Beach Movie (which I couldn’t even finish).

  2. I just finished this the other day and felt pretty much the same way you did. The only redeeming thing for me was Liza and Russ’ relationship. Definitely for younger readers. I think part of the reason I didn’t love it as much as I’d hoped was because I read and really enjoyed Being Sloane Jacobs. I’ve heard nothing but wonderful things about Meant to Be, though, so I’m planning to read that soon for my contemporary fix! Great review as always, Debby! 🙂