Blog Tour: Destiny by Cindy Ray Hale




Rating: 3 stars
Pub Date: November 5, 2013
Publisher: self published
Genre: young adult contemporary romance, religious fiction
Format/Source: ebook, author
Status: Book 1 of the Destiny trilogy

This arc was given to me by the author in exchange for an honest review as part of the tour. Thanks to Lola of Lola's Blog Tours for hosting. Full tour schedule can be found here.

Summary:
Destiny Clark, a young Mormon girl living in Tennessee, is wildly infatuated with Isaac Robinson, the headmaster's son at her Baptist high school. When they're cast together in the school's production of Les Misérables, Destiny is horrified to find that she has to be publicly humiliated by acting out her true feelings of rejection onstage.

As their rehearsals begin, Destiny realizes the unimaginable: Isaac has developed deep feelings for her despite their religious differences and the fact that he has a girlfriend.

But will they be able to find their place amongst the backbiters of their ultra-conservative world?

Weaving around Destiny and Isaac's alternating viewpoints,
Destiny is the first book in a series inspired by the characters of Les Misérables and explores heartbreak, self-discovery, intolerance, and love.


Review:
Allow me a moment to be completely candid here. Destiny is a little difficult for me to review fairly because it chronicles the romantic adventures of a young Mormon girl living in Tennessee, and for those of you who don't know, for the first 24 years of my life, that's exactly what I was until I moved to Texas last year. So yeah, it's hard for me to be unbiased when I have my own experience of being that Tennessee Mormon girl. Also, as I've stated on here several times, religious fiction is pretty low on my preferred genres list. I have my beliefs so I'm not interested in fictitious accounts of any religion including my own. If I'm going to read about religion, I prefer for it to be theology as opposed to fiction. I would rather inform myself using the doctrine taught by leaders or that religion's canon. To be honest, had I known what Destiny was about, I'm not sure I would have participated in this tour because I know my own bias. Nonetheless, I AM part of the tour, and I will do my best to share my honest opinion as a reviewer, not as any other role.

So there are our main characters: Destiny, the talented sophomore embodying all the feels that particular year entails, who is in crush with Isaac, the handsome student-body-president-jock-singer-son-of-the-headmaster. Destiny really does remind me a lot of myself at that age, not even counting the Mormon similarity. I just remember constantly feeling invisible to my family, feeling like I'm always behind my perfect sister in my parents' eyes, liking a guy who doesn't know I exist, etc. And when you DO add in the LDS factor, it feels like you live a second life because you (well, Destiny and I) have such a different relationship with the kids at school vs church peers. I, however, attended a public school with at least seven other LDS kids (which is a lot, and only one of them was my sibling, just fyi) where nobody ever said anything derogatory about my religion to my face. Destiny definitely has a more uphill battle with her Baptist school and TOTAL HYPOCRITE OF A HEADMASTER. *ahem* Srsly, though, the man is a bigot. It's quite lucky that his son, Isaac, is a bit more open-minded.

Destiny starts off a little She's All That with Isaac's mysterious scheme revealed to be his plan to convert Destiny back to Baptist, but I like that Isaac recognizes the hypocrisy in the people around him and chooses to stand apart. Sure, it's not like he calls out Will and Aspen publicly but sometimes the quiet, unknown protests are the more important ones. Also, public shaming is tacky, and that would make me like him less. I do like that Isaac is, to put it bluntly, a virgin. So many times books are about female characters' sexual awakening from girl to woman and her guide is some sexy dude with a been-there-done-that attitude. I know a lot of readers will be put off by this and give same "pushing the Mormon message" criticism that so many gave Stephenie Meyer over Twilight, but in this case, my religious beliefs aside, I'm actually all for pushing diverse characters, which includes diverse male characters. Soapbox time: As much as I love dreamy, ab-toting ya & na heroes, I feel like they're a bit too common. They're handsome. They're chiseled. They're masculine.They're swoony. Sex with them is perfect on the first try. THEY ARE NOT REAL. I think if we're going to push for female protagonists who aren't perfect, well-behaved, sized two, blond-haired-blue-eyed-red-lipped and virginal, we should also be pushing for a range of their love interests, whether the guy doesn't come with a square jaw and bulging biceps or he's not the student-body-president-captain-of-the-whatever-team or maybe that he's a virgin. Want an example? Go read Dare You To by Katie McGarry. Point is, I like that Isaac is a Good Guy. He's not perfect, but it's clear that his relationship with God is important to him, and one of the facets of that relationship is maintaining his virginity. More power to ya, Isaac!

As for the other characters: Michael: Love him. He's another Good Guy. He's the kind of guy who inspires others to be better. It's clear that the majority of the kids at Bethel love him because they're able to see past the Mormon label. Preston: I'm actually really rooting for Preston. I adore him. Hannah: I just don't know with Hannah. I feel like at some point the other shoe may drop. There's something I just don't trust about her. Olivia: Too over-the-top. I mean, I was a brat at age 13, but srsly, she crosses the line, both ethically and literarily (is that even a word?!). I don't think she's particularly well-written, and I despise how the Clark parents (esp Mom) defer to her every whim. *yawn* Shanice: I don't even know why she's a character at all other than being the vehicle to introduce Hannah and Destiny. Also, she's Destiny's "one friend' (so cliché). Hudson: I was worried he'd be brought in as a potential love interest, but I like him just being Destiny's friend. He's okay, and I don't mean that as in "The show was just okay tonight; it was better yesterday." I mean it as in he's okay, he's legit. Pastor Gordon: And the most surprising character award goes to! Just as Isaac proves bigotry does not always breed bigotry, Aspen's grandfather and she are the opposite example, that tolerance and respect don't always fall perfectly down the family tree either.

Some of my complaints: The biggest advice/complaint/suggestion/whatever is that all self-published authors make sure they get experienced criticism before publication. I have nothing but respect for writers who choose to self publish. It takes guts, but it also requires a lot of work. Traditional and small-press publishers have experienced editors whose entire job it is to help authors become better writers. When you self-pub, you need to do some research and find someone who can do this for you. I'm not talking about just having your family proofread or a friend. Find a professional who can help improve your writing. Not every word ever written needs to be published. Some of them are redundant, some are pointless, some are just plain bad. I think a critical eye could have shaped Destiny a bit better, streamlined it more. The scenes often dragged, creating a very slow pace. I think it was a bit too long. Also, word choice is really important, and editors and copy editors can help with that. There were a few moments when I visibly cringed because the wording was just super awkward.

As for the religion, I would caution Cindy to absolutely make sure nothing comes across as bashing. While nothing crossed the line in my eyes, there were moments during which I was a little uncomfortable with the content. Also, theologically speaking, Destiny always spoke true concerning the beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. However, I found many of the passages where she shares her beliefs with either Hannah or Isaac a bit stilted, a bit forced. I think it's great that Cindy is trying to represent something different in the Destiny trilogy. I am not one to read a lot of religious fiction, but I would like to see some religion represented more in ya as the teen years are a typical time to question one's spirituality. I would encourage any reader interested in any faith represented in a fictional novel to use formal resources for research. If a novel gets you interested, great, but don't take it as the one and only word of that religion. In this case, if your interest is piqued by the things Cindy has written about, you should look up different LDS resources such as Mormon.org or LDS.org or find your local LDS congregation. Likewise, if you are interested in learning more about the Baptist faith, find your local Baptist congregation (I apologize that I don't know of other Baptist resources like websites).

I do think that Cindy displays an enormous level of talent. At its heart, Destiny is an interesting story, and the on-page drama was definitely engrossing enough to pull me out of my conflicted religious musings. Once again, I admit I'm Team Preston, although that would be the easy way out and also the lack of conflict in that would lead to no plot at all. The best aspect of this novel is its realism. The characters feel like they could be people I knew from high school. Like Destiny, when I was sixteen, I dated a boy who was not LDS. My family didn't encourage it, but they didn't forbid it as all three of my older siblings dated outside our religion as well. The everyday, everyman problems Destiny and Isaac face are pretty real too. I can definitely empathize with Destiny and Isaac's plight, and I look forward to seeing how they will resolve their romance in the upcoming books. Book two, Synchrony, is set for a February 2014 release, and you can find it on Goodreads here.

Book Links:
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About the Author:
Cindy Ray Hale lives in Tennessee with her husband and four children. In addition to being a writer, she's an avid reader and a social media junkie. At the age of 17, she wrote a short story, "Instant Harmony" which later appeared in the April 2000 issue of "New Era," the official magazine for the youth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Destiny is her first book and will be available for purchase November 5, 2013.
Author Links:
   


Giveaway:
Tour-wide giveaway prizes include:
Destiny swag pack: signed copy of Destiny, Destiny keychain,  
Destiny bookmark, I heart Destiny t-shirt
$25 Amazon gift card
Camp Boyfriend swag pack
a Rafflecopter giveaway

2 comments:

  1. Mary, how interesting that you are LDS! As far as editors go...I felt like I spent way too much, and sadly, I agree. My copyeditor was expensive and did hardly more than a quick proofread. So frustrating.

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    Replies
    1. :( I'm so sorry that it didn't work out. Hopefully it'll go better next time.

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