Cover of The Trouble With Destiny, featuring two illustrated people standing on the prow pf a cruise ship

About the Book

Title: The Trouble With Destiny
Published: 2015
Swoonworthy Scale: 7

Cover Story: Set the Stage
BFF Charm: Roger Murtaugh
Talky Talk: High School Antics
Bonus Factors: Passion for the Arts
Anti-Bonus Factors: Apples and Oranges, Not Enough Music
Relationship Status: Wishing You the Best

Cover Story: Set the Stage

The ship, waves and stars on this cover are very reminiscent of a high school theater set. Add in the real people at the top, and I feel like I’m watching an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet mixed with Titanic.

The Deal:

There is little Liza loves more than her high school band. And when she finds out that it’s likely losing funding before at the end of her junior year of high school, there is little she won’t do to get the funding they need, including dragging all of her friends on a Spring Break competition cruise that promises a $25,000 grand prize for the best high school arts group.

BFF Charm: Roger Murtaugh

BFF charm with Roger Murtagh from Lethal Weapon's face.

From the moment I “met” Liza, I saw a lot of myself in her. She’s stubborn, dedicated, and can be totally bossy when pushed to her breaking point. In fact, her position as Drum Major and mine as President of Show Choir in my senior year of high school were very similar. But I’ve had a year or two (or fifteen …) to come to terms with that side of myself, and I like to think I’ve grown a bit. (There’s nostalgia, and then there’s rolling your eyes that you were ever that ridiculous.) Sorry, Liza, but I’m thinking we’re much too similar to actually get along. Maybe give it a decade?

Swoonworthy Scale: 7

Although Liza goes on the cruise to win her band funding, she runs into an old flame and can’t help but revisit some old feelings. People can become very different from age 12 to age 16, however.

On the other hand, new feelings occasionally pop up when you least expect them.

Talky Talk: High School Antics

Some YA books feature characters and events that feel timeless, and some feel plucked straight from high school. The Trouble With Destiny falls into the latter category. The characters and situations all feel extremely young; I found myself rolling my eyes more than once at how oblivious Liza was being. But the fact that it felt so young isn’t entirely a bad thing, and Lauren Morrill definitely crafted a believable story that was a cute read. It just made me feel old, and I don’t read YA to feel old, as contrary as that might sound.

All that said, I think an actual high schooler would really enjoy this book.

Bonus Factor: Passion for the Arts

Screen shot from High School Musical with students singing and dancing in the gym

Reading about Liza’s fear of losing her beloved band to budget cuts had me reliving some high school memories of my own. My high school, much like hers, prioritized sports over arts, and our music and theater programs were constantly trying to figure out ways to fund ourselves. Even though the situation is awful, it’s nice to see that there are others like me (regardless of the fact that they’re fictional) who are as passionate, and will do as much, for their arts programs.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Apples to Oranges

Apples and oranges in a wooden bowl

The competition Liza and her band enter is the strangest competition I’ve ever heard of. How concert bands, show choirs, and improv troupes, plus other groups not mentioned, can be judged in the same competition just doesn’t make sense.

Anti-Bonus Factor: Not Enough Music

Beautiful african woman with afro listening to music with eyes closed in studio

I went into The Trouble With Destiny hoping to read about some awesome high school music performances, but the behind the scenes drama overshadowed any of the actual music. I know it can be hard to portray music on the written page, but I would have liked at least a little bit more of it.

Relationship Status: Wishing You the Best

I truly feel for your predicament, Book, and I’m proud of you for doing whatever you can to stand up for what you believe in and what you’re passionate about. You’re going places in life, I just know it. Just make sure that you learn how to handle stress a little better. That’s important.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Delacorte, but got neither a private dance party with Tom Hiddleston nor money in exchange for this review. The Trouble With Destiny is available now.

Mandy (she/her) is a manager at a tech company who lives in Austin, TX, with her husband, son, and dogs. She loves superheroes and pretty much any show or movie with “Star” in the name.