Review: The Trouble with Destiny by Lauren Morrill

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

Review: The Trouble with Destiny by Lauren MorrillThe Trouble with Destiny by Lauren Morrill
Published by Delacorte BFYR on December 8, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 272
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
AmazonThe Book Depository

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.

I really, really hate to have to do this. Lauren Morrill’s a wonderful person, who I see at Atlanta book events pretty regularly. I loved both Meant to Be and Being Sloane Jacobs. I was in marching band for two years of high school. Where could a romance about the drum major of a marching band possibly go wrong? Well, let me tell you a bit about the trouble with The Trouble with Destiny. Warning: There will be untagged spoilers in this one.

To start with, there’s the premise: the marching band is going on a cruise ship for a week to try to earn money to save the high school band with the $25,000 dollar prize. That, in and of itself, is a bit unbelievable, but I was willing to roll with it. Sure, that would be monstrously expensive and difficult to arrange for spring break, and it’s actually the concert band since they can’t march on the ship, but hey whatever I’ll sail along. That alone would have been fine. A bit unbelievable but it’s not a showstopper. I mean, hello, I love celebrity romances and they are zero percent believable most of the time.

To talk about the good, The Trouble with Destiny was entertaining. I read big chunks of it at a time without getting bored. I was vaguely invested, mostly in the romance. The Trouble with Destiny did have me turning the pages, and I think that people who don’t know much about the way high school band works or read too widely will enjoy it.

The first thing that got to me as I was reading were the inaccuracies regarding band. As I mentioned already, it’s the school’s marching band, ostensibly, that’s going. She refers to them in chapter one as the Holland High marching band as they’re preparing to get on the ship. It’s no wonder that one of the mean girls is confused.

Then her expression turns smug. “So what are you guys going to do for your showcase? Like, march back and forth across the stage?”

“It’s concert band, Missy. We sit in chairs,” I deadpan.

Listen, Missy’s right about this one. The arts losing funding to sports is a serious issue, but the money isn’t being pulled just from the marching band. It’s what Liza cares about, I guess, because she’s drum major, but the two are actually different. In The Trouble with Destiny, there’s also a changed role of drum major from real life. In this book, the drum major is responsible for running practices, conducting during concerts, and basically everything. Drum majors are actually only for marching band, not concert band. I feel your confusion so hard, Missy.

Later in the book, the director gets mad at Liza for not being focused and goes off on her for not being able to handle the responsibility of doing what is, in the real world, his job. The band’s director, Mr. Curtis, literally does nothing. Sure, it’s an extra spring break trip that was her idea, but he obviously signed off on it and Liza seems to respect his opinion. Mr. Curtis doesn’t attend practices (which band directors do), nor does he ever conduct the concert band (which band directors also do). They also do not kick kids out of the public school band because they suck at their instrument and randomly make them the conductor—WTF was that, I would like to know.)

Leaving the band behind, there’s the cruise ship. I was willing to sail on along with that, but it got even more believable. Early on, the ship undergoes some sort of power failure, and it’s running on generators for basically the whole week. It even stops at a port and leaves unrepaired. This is SO not how cruise ships work IRL. The ship would either have gone back to the port it left from or stayed in the next one until it was repaired, rather than limping along on generators acting normal until a part was brought to it (unless it literally could not sail).

gif clueless ew

The next thing to bother me was the humor. This one’s a matter of personal taste, but I just really don’t go for embarrassment humor. I don’t laugh; I cringe. It can be almost physically painful. So many horribly embarrassing things happen in this book, pretty much all to Liza. I mean, she accidentally gets drugged up and almost eats someone’s waffle leftovers off the hallway floor. WHY?

The characterization is weak, at best, despite the fact that Lauren Morrill’s impressed me with that element in both prior books. Liza’s voice is okay but clashes frequently between the show and the tell; she and others describe her differently than she ever really acts in the book. Everyone else is really lacking in development, which is part of why her voice never coalesced for me. She and others comment on her close friendships, but she doesn’t seem to really give a shit about anyone but herself.

Speaking of Liza’s best friend, let’s talk about Huck. For the first time in a Morrill book (to my knowledge), we have a character that isn’t both white and straight. And it’s *drum roll* a gay best friend character! We’re really rocking the boat here with the diversity, I know. As is the case with token gay best friends most places, Liza ignores him unless she needs to unload her own drama. She treats him like shit and he’s just like okay with it at the end of the book. He doesn’t get any sort of romance of his own or talk about any boys that aren’t Liza’s love interests ever. What representation.

gif generic clueless

Then there’s the hackneyed ex-best friend mean girl rivalry with Demi. Liza’s horrified that the show choir from her school, in which Demi stars, is also on this cruise ship to participate in the competition. I’m mostly shocked that the most popular girl in school is in show choir in a school that’s shutting down the arts program. I mean, I think show choir is cool, but I also think marching band is cool so. Demi and Liza are monstrously catty to one another throughout the whole book, have one brief conversation where they realize they misunderstood ages ago, and are totally cool again. Voila! Friendship arc!

The love triangle was the most interesting part of the book to me, but it too was not well done. Liza immediately becomes obsessed with Lenny, her director’s solely so he has an excuse to be on the boat, and first kiss from a theater camp when they were like twelve. He’s all hot now and she becomes focused on winning him over Demi, who is also interested obviously. Meanwhile, Demi’s ex Russ clearly has a crush on Liza.

I’m down for love triangles and love squares and whatever, but this one is just so clunky. I was very much feeling the Liza/Russ overcoming her prejudice of football players thing. But then. There’s this weird scene where he hugs her to celebrate a thing and then Lenny kisses her and then Russ punches Lenny and they fight and Demi runs away and Lenny goes after her and dear god what is this melodrama. Later there’s a series of awkward scenes in the cruise ship’s spa, all of which were over the top and pretty much the line where I was kind of enjoying despite the issues to where I was no longer happy.

gif way harsh tai clueless

Despite the fact that I was primed to be on the Russ/Liza ship, I couldn’t even board in the end. Liza literally confesses that she likes Lenny, discovers he’s not a good guy, and then realizes omg I liked Russ all along. That is not remotely satisfying, like at all. I’d assumed she’d figure out Lenny sucked on her own; he actually had to tell her he sucked for her to cotton on. Russ has legitimate reason to be majorly over his crush of a couple days but he forgives her like “lol no probs.”

Then there’s the ending which is a hot mess of a couple more things. The competition happens (see spoiler in band section for some of the tomfoolery), but is interrupted by a warning siren (so that the Russ and Liza can have time to get together in a public venue) while one of the groups is in the middle of performing. After the ship has sailed, a guy comes out and announces that it was a false alarm and they’re ready to announce the winner of the competition. Apparently that group that was performing is shit out of luck and doesn’t get to finish. Very realistic.

Finally, the book ends with a montage that’s almost directly from the ending of Clueless (which is probably intentional since they also matchmake the two chaperones—yeah, there are only two—at the start to distract them). The band and the show choir attend the shipboard wedding of an older lady who has given Liza advice throughout the book. Liza ends up catching the bouquet because it’s really cute to end a YA novel where the couple has really only known each other for a week with an implication that she’ll get married next. Um yeah, okay.

gif wedding clueless bouquet toss

Lauren Morrill has talent. She can do ships and characterization. They’re just not much in evidence here. Maybe read or reread Meant to Be instead. I just don’t really understand how this book happened, so I’m going to pretend and it didn’t and you might want to do that too.

Favorite Quote:

“Have they no shame?”

“Someone replaced their shame gauge with an overdose of confidence and a full tank of ego,” Huck replies with an eye roll.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

gif as if clueless

8 responses to “Review: The Trouble with Destiny by Lauren Morrill”

  1. “I just don’t really understand how this book happened, so I’m going to pretend and it didn’t and you might want to do that too.”

    Ha, I will join you on that one. Yeahhh, every aspect of this book is terrible – as we’ve discussed – and I just… It’s sad. It’s just sad. Especially when you know an author is capable of so much more.
    Debby (Snuggly Oranges) recently posted…Top Ten Books I Wouldn’t Mind Santa Leaving Under My Tree (2015)My Profile

  2. Cayla says:

    When the synopsis said there’s a marching band, I was already convinced to read this but after reading your review I’m not even sure anymore. I’m in the marching band now and this is my fourth year and how you described the band in the book is way different than real life. I love Lauren Morril’s Meant to Be but its sad to see this book isn’t as good as Meant to Be.

    • Christina Franke says:

      I really really wish I could encourage you to read this, but it’s probably going to be as frustrating for you as it was for me. 🙁

  3. I love your perfect Clueless gifs so much. I was MASSIVELY disappointed with this book for all the reasons you mentioned. I didn’t give a shit about the romances, or the characters- they didn’t have personalities! And it was all quite unbelievable considering the celebrity romances or fake dating tropes I’ll read (or the High School Musical movies that I’ll watch). Such a bummer. I really should have read Meant to Be again haha.
    Morgan @ Gone with the Words recently posted…Morgan’s 2015 End of Year Survey!My Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      Why, thank you! I was especially pleased about the “could they be any more generic?” one. :-p

      Gah, I just held out hope despite the early reviews but wow I should have listened. I LOVE fake dating and celeb romance too, and I tried so hard to love it but wow no.

  4. Mary says:

    I thought the EXACT same thing about literally everything you mentioned here. I did marching band for EIGHT years so I had a huge problem with the marching/concert band mixup as well as the chaperone being MIA and Liza doing everything. And Liza treating her friends and Russ like crap. Such a disappointment from an amazing author. Your Cher gifs say it all!
    Mary recently posted…Review: The Hook Up by Kristen CallihanMy Profile

  5. […] A Reader Of Fictions – “The characterization is weak, at best” […]

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