Destined to Fail: A Review

Hi friends!

Today I'm so excited to share my review of Samantha March's debut novel- Destined to Fail- with you all! Samantha first introduced me to many of the authors I've hosted on this blog so, naturally, I couldn't wait to read her book!

For those of you who don't know, Samantha March (also known as Samantha Robey; March is her pen name) is the creator of the popular blog ChickLitPlus, where she posts book and product reviews, as well as numerous author interviews, guest posts, and insight into the world of self-publishing.

Stay tuned for Samantha's guest post here next week!

Destined to Fail: A Summary

Jasmine Jones is ready to begin her new life as a college student, and is ecstatic to have best friend Abby by her side. But weeks into their new college life, Abby drops the bomb- she is pregnant, and dropping out of college. Jasmine can’t handle the fact that Abby is wasting her opportunity to get an education, and going back to her cheating, abusive boyfriend. She struggles to move on from her friendship with Abby, but befriends two new girls at college.

Everything seems back on track for Jasmine- great new friendships and roommates, a strong relationship with boyfriend Nate, and excelling at her college courses. But Jasmine’s newfound happiness is shattered when her pregnancy test comes out positive. Does she have to drop out of college now and become a young mother? Will Nate stay with her? How can she afford a child? Jasmine’s life has been filled with obstacles and challenges along the way- from a missing father, sexual and physical abuse, and addictions that tore her family apart. With this latest setback, Jasmine fears her life will always be a struggle. Destined to Fail is one woman’s story about overcoming adversity in life, about taking the negatives and finding a positive, and about never giving up hope.

Destined to Fail: What I Think

To me, the most admirable thing an author can do is take risks. I’m not just talking about putting his or her work out into the world to be scrutinized (although that is certainly chancy, as well); I’m talking about the whole she-bang…and Samantha March really took a risk with Destined to Fail. First, she went the non-traditional route (which is rapidly becoming more traditional) and self-published her debut novel. She had to learn everything that goes into publishing a book because all the responsibility was on her shoulders. In traditional publishing, if a book doesn’t sell it’s not always because the book is poorly written; often times it’s because it wasn’t properly marketed. March chose to do things her way and ensure her vision for the book was cast. A risky move, indeed, but one that certainly seems to have paid off in the few months since its publication.

Second, March chose to dive head-first into subject matter that would make many first-time authors run for cover. Perhaps she knew she could because, again, she was the one responsible for the success of the book. But I think it was because March, who makes her opinions well known on her popular blog ChickLitPlus, wanted to establish her voice from the word “go”. And establish she did.

Prologues are a particular favorite of mine. I know there are some who aren’t fans, but I like a little peek into what’s coming- or what has already been- because it heightens my sense of time and place, and because it’s usually a very powerful section of the book. March uses this tool with great effectiveness. With the prologue, I was immediately drawn into what I knew was going to be a tough subject to conquer- one that isn’t talked about enough, in my opinion- but I still didn’t know yet how or when the characters would arrive at that destination. I was curious and more than a little eager to find out!

I enjoyed getting to know Jasmine, Abby, Cari, and Kiley because- as I can imagine is the case with many of March’s readers- they reminded me of my own friends and college experiences. Sometimes the dialogue felt a bit forced, but I found myself laughing (and crying) as I relived the conversations I’d once had in school. March wrote about what she knew, and that’s probably the most important thing an author can bring to the table. She understood the dynamics between her characters, and I believed her story.

Unfortunately, while March trusted me enough to deal with the heavy issues facing the women in her book, she didn’t seem to trust me enough to follow her leading. Foreshadowing is a technique that, when used properly, makes the reader jump back later and say, “Oh, that’s what that was about!” When Jasmine first finds Cari bleeding in the bathroom, I already knew where the story was headed. I became impatient as the story continued because I kept thinking, “When is the truth going to come out already?” I wasn’t surprised. I felt the same way when Jasmine missed her birth control pills. I had long realized that the prologue was about Jasmine- not Abby- but March’s use of foreshadowing here was too obvious. I waited impatiently for Jasmine’s morning sickness to arrive so I could move past that part of the story. Unlike the prologue, it held no suspense for me. Truly, these were the only moments when I didn’t enjoy the book. I could handle the tough issues. I could share in the painful decisions these women had to make. I could most definitely deal with the fear of failing. So I also wanted March to trust that I could put her pieces together and discover the truth on my own.

That criticism aside, what March has created here is a powerful testament to the issues women- and families- still face. Whether or not this was her intention, it’s certainly done well in Destined. March approaches topics like teenage pregnancy, abortion, abuse, and neglect with the perfect combination of compassion and gusto. March never shies away from the details. She hits me head on and won’t let me forget that Destined is more than just a coming-of-age tale: it’s the secret your sister is keeping…the scar your best friend is hiding…the abuse you’ve never told anyone about. It’s the hope that people will care enough to act. It’s the strength you never knew you had. There is no judgment; only love. And what I absolutely adored about March’s main girl was her journey into self-awareness. Jasmine thought she understood exactly how to succeed in life- how to remove herself from all the pain she’d experienced- but, ultimately, it was pain that equipped her to let go and move on:

“I thought, perhaps, everything truly did happen for a reason…and that reason was to do good for others.”

It’s a powerful lesson to learn.


Samantha said...

Wiping away tears as I read your words. Incredible review Wendi, thank you so much.

Writer. Wife. Wanderer. said...

You're welcome, Samantha! It meant a lot to me to be able to read your work. Thanks for having the courage to write it!

kstar said...

This is an outstanding review, Wendi. I felt the same way about the foreshadowing but didn't really realize it. Everything else about the novel is fantastic :)