BY: JENNIFER GIBSON
Jessie is determined not to let her hearing loss hold her back. She aims her sights even higher as she ventures in a new direction. With a Black Belt on the horizon, and so close to achieving it, she is unaware of the danger closing in on her.
Until one day, everything suddenly changes and she finds herself standing on the precipice of life. Will she be strong enough to hold on or will she succumb to the darkness that surrounds her?
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: Destiny by Jennifer Gibson is heart-breakingly touching. As I mentioned in my review of Compass, book 2 in the series, it is hard to be a teenager and even harder to be a hard-of-hearing teenager. In Destiny, we follow Jessie not only through her trials in high school, but also as she moves into the adult world of jobs, stalkers, and life-changing decisions. Jessie is abused and mistreated by her classmates, but we all know that kids can be cruel. However, there is no excuse for her to be equally abused and mistreated by her coworkers and bosses—people who are supposed be grown up and mature. How can Jessie ever expect to find happiness if the maltreatment doesn’t stop once she leaves high school behind? If nothing else, Jessie’s experiences are a prime example of how truly unfair life can be.
I was appalled, simply appalled, at one scene that absolutely broke my heart. In this scene, Jessie is dreaming and she spies a young girl crying. The girl turns out to be Jessie as a child and she is crying because her elementary school teacher has said hateful things about her and shoved her and her desk into the hallway, saying she didn’t deserve to be in the classroom with the other students. I simply cannot imagine a teacher doing that to a child. Any child. I so wanted to punch that woman. I am sorry. I am not usually a violent person, but I really wanted to beat that teacher to a pulp. Her behavior wasn’t only unprofessional, it was despicable. And it really brought it home to me how extraordinary Jessie is that she takes it all and rarely complains. I thought Destiny, like Sway and Compass, to be a thought-provoking glimpse into a world all of us need to understand.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Well, needless to say, Jennifer Gibson has done it again in the sequel to Sway and Compass. The third book in the series, Destiny, continues the story of Jessie, the hard-of-hearing teenager, and shows us another aspect of what life can be like for the disabled. Jessie is older now and facing the prospect of looking for work. It is a daunting challenge, complicated by her disability, of course, but even further complicated by the petty cruelty of those she must deal with on a daily basis. And this time, it is not just the high school classmates that torment her, but professional adults who really ought to know better. Reading of the behavior of some of these people, I was truly disappointed and disillusioned, right along with Jessie. When the poor kid finally breaks down and sobs, “Why? Why me?” I can fully understand her pain. To make matters even worse, she suffers an additional hearing loss in one ear after getting sick with the flu, losing nearly all the hearing on that side. As if life wasn’t hard enough for her the way it was, she has to get sucker punched when she least expects it. And what does Jessie do? She heads to the dojo and beats the crap out of a punching bag. You gotta love her spirit!
I found this book to be even more heart-wrenching and enlightening than the first two. If professional adults can’t show a little warmth and compassion to someone less fortunate than them, how can we ever hope to evolve as a species. I can comprehend that humans tend to fear what they don’t understand, but this is not the Dark Ages, or at least it is not supposed to be. This story takes place in the twentieth century, and we are supposed to be enlightened enough to realize that disabilities are not punishments from God for sins committed by the disabled. A hearing loss, blindness, paralysis, deformity, etc. can happen to anyone, good or bad. I am both angered and saddened that there are still people in this world who don’t understand that old saying, “There, but for the grace of God, go I,” and show some honest compassion to those, who through no fault of their own, suffer afflictions the rest of us can only imagine. Destiny is not a book to be taken lightly. I believe every adult and young adult should read it, think about its message, and adjust their behavior accordingly. I honestly believe that if those of us who are not disabled mistreat those of us who are, they do not deserve the blessings of good health they have been given. Let them walk a mile in Jessie’s shoes and see how they like being treated as she was.
I sat on the porch, hugging my knees with my face toward the sun, reveling in the warm feeling. The air smelled of freshly fallen leaves and sweet sunflowers. I watched the vibrant orange and crimson red leaves shake and shimmer in the breeze. They looked like they were shivering in the cool air, all too aware that winter was just around the corner.
A tiny red squirrel scampered up the tree, scooting along thick bark until it reached an outstretched branch. It promptly sat down with a huff, twitching its tail like a flag as it peered downward. It seemed to be scouting for potential falling nuts from this vantage point or perhaps selecting a new hiding spot to bury its next treasure.
The floorboards beneath me rumbled, a slight vibration from someone walking behind me. It came to a halt just behind my back. I peered up and spotted Ethan, holding two steaming mugs in his hands. He grinned, leaned down, and gave me a kiss upside down.
“Ooh! Just like Spiderman!” I said, giggling, as he handed me a yellow mug filled with swirls of luscious chocolate. Wisps of white steam floated upward as I inhaled its delicious aroma, a mix of peppermint and dark chocolate.
“Mmm! Thanks,” I murmured as I blew across the top of the mug, pushing the steam away from me and forming a very long curly shape in the letter S.
I could smell Ethan’s scent, a combination of pine and fresh snow which always reminded me of Christmas. I loved it. His presence had a calming effect on me whenever he was near. I always felt more grounded around him. He was my rock, he was a strong a pillar of stone. In many ways, he was literally my anchor, stopping me from being sent adrift on the days I felt lost, like today.
As I gingerly leaned in and took a tentative sip, being cautious not to burn my tongue, out of the corner of my eye I noticed him watching me. I could feel his gaze on me.
“What?” I asked as I slurped on the rich chocolate. It tasted like someone swirled a candy cane in it.
“Miss camp?” he replied as he gestured at my shirt with his free hand.
I looked down at my long sleeved waffle shirt in forest green. On the front was a white logo of an owl sitting inside a circle of branches featuring large letters that said “Camp Balsam.” It was where both of us taught martial arts. It had been a long, hot, and adventurous summer.
It was an eye-opening experience that changed me. It left a lasting impression that I couldn’t shake. I went as one person, left as another. It was like night and day. I couldn’t believe how different I felt when I got home. Mom was the first one to notice the difference. Aside from my being supremely tanned and more fit than usual, she remarked that I seemed like a new person, like a butterfly finally emerging from its shy cocoon.
She had seen a big shift in my confidence and noticed that I was more open and happy despite my exhaustion. I slept in as late as possible every day for a week upon arriving home.
Going back to school was a rude awakening. My body screamed and demanded more time to sleep in as if it wanted to make up for all that was lost during camp.
Not only was it a physical shift, it was the atmosphere at school. The difference between camp and school was drastic. I felt right at home during the summer, surrounded by so many good people where no one was judged, but loved regardless of their disability. It was a place of acceptance for both the staff and the kids. Every day I was met with hugs, warm smiles, and cheerful greetings.
On the first day of school, it was a shock to walk down the slick hallways and be treated so coldly. Everyone just pushed and shoved their way toward class, no smiles or a sense of acknowledgment. All eyes were averted, completely absorbed in their schedules or toward their destination. I was met with stony silence. It left me with a deep sense of isolation and confusion. I suddenly felt so displaced. It felt like a drastic shift between two realities, and I couldn’t find my bearings. I felt so lost.
I fiddled with the cuff of my shirt, smoothing out a wrinkle, nodding at Ethan. “Yeah, I do.” A wave of sorrow washed over me.
“Jessie, what’s wrong? You’ve been really quiet lately,” he said as he tilted his head to the side and reached out with his left hand, stroking my cheek with his fingers. His touch left a warm trail on my skin.
I heaved a deep sigh as I wondered how to convey my thoughts clearly to him. “Have you ever had that sensation when the ground suddenly seemed to disappear and you feel like you’re falling?’
He nodded. “Um…yeah, sort of,” he replied as his hand slid down my arm, moving up and down in slow, sensual motions.
“I just feel so lost, like a leaf turning and twisting in the air, completely at the mercy of the wind,” I said and looked out across the yard, toward the trees that displayed their vast plumage of brilliant fall colors.
“Ever since we left camp, it’s like there is this huge hole in my life.” My voice nearly broke, sounding more like a gasp. I could feel tears welling up behind my eyes.
Ethan grabbed my mug and placed it beside him on the porch and scooted closer to me, pulling me into his chest. He rubbed my back in slow circles.
“You feel like you’ve lost your friends?” he inquired, his voice rumbling in his chest near my face.
I nodded, suddenly feeling so tired.
“You know what? So do I, Jessie, so do I.” He leaned his head down to look into my eyes, his eyebrows creased in concern. “Is this about school?”
I nodded again. “Yeah,” I said softly, afraid that I’d lose control and start sobbing uncontrollably.
I could feel his chest rise and fall as he sighed deeply in frustration. He nearly growled as he clenched his jaw. “I wish that they could see what I see in you. They seem to have a very twisted and misguided view about you.”
I nodded. “I know. I thought that by now, they would treat me with more respect, just accept me for who I am. I want to be their friend, but it seems like that they don’t want that at all. It’s as if the harder I try, the more I push them away.”
As I spoke, his warm hand moved upward toward my neck, his fingers massaging the muscles in gentle strokes.
“It’s like every cruel joke and juvenile sense of ignorance followed me from junior high to here. I had expected to be able to shake off that awkward persona a couple of years ago.”
I slowly shook my head, trying to dispel those old memories and feelings.
“It’s as if I have this horrible, dark shadow from my past slithering into the present. Just when I think I had broken that bond, it rears its ugly head again and strikes at me in the form a demeaning prank or disparaging remark.”
My hands trembled as I spoke.
“I thought I was stronger, more sure of myself. It felt like the real me came through at camp. The minute I went back to school, it’s as if that person simply vanished.”
A tear rolled down my cheek. Before I could reach up and wipe it away, Ethan’s hand gently swiped it off. He pulled me in toward his lips and gave me a soft kiss on my cheek where the tear had fallen. He moved slowly toward my lips, touching them lightly and sensuously, leaving behind a tingling sensation. His mouth tasted like chocolate and candy canes.
My mind suddenly went blank, infused with a sense of one thought only: Ethan.
I gripped his hand, intertwining my fingers with his, their warmth sending a fire along my arm.
As we continued to kiss I was filled with a languid feeling, relishing in the comfort of his soft lips.
When we broke apart, gasping slightly, he gazed into my eyes as his other hand moved slowly along the back of my neck.
“Feeling better?” he said with a half-smile that curled up in the corner.
I nodded as I chuckled lightly.
“Jessie, those students at your school are just trying to tear you down so that they can climb all over you, literally. They are only doing it to make themselves seem stronger when in fact, it’s the opposite. They are so insecure and threatened by you that they have to make you seem smaller so they feel bigger. They are just playing mind games with you. You know what is true in your heart. Let it shine like you did at camp. You revealed your true self and everyone loved it.”
He reached up and stroked the side of my cheek, then tucked a long lock of blonde curls behind my ear.
“Once they see how strong you really are, they won’t patronize you anymore. You have the power to be in control of everything that happens, especially now.”
My eyebrows knitted together as I looked into his eyes. “What do you mean especially now?”
“Your training, Jessie. It’s not only making you physically stronger, it’s about utilizing your inner strength. It’s about finding the confidence from within. If any of them saw you at the dojo or at summer camp, they wouldn’t think twice about giving you any lip.”
His fingers grazed my forehead as he stroked the skin, brushing my bangs aside.
“You are a very different person now. You’re a teacher. That is so much more than what most of them have achieved so far. It’s amazing, Jessie. Show them that.”
I nodded as I thought about it.
“So, um…can I have my hot chocolate back or are you planning on hogging it?” I said as I tried to reach for it.
He barked a hefty laugh. “That’s going to cost you,” he said with a sly wink, leaning in closer to me.
“Uh huh…and uh, what would that be?” I said, smirking.
“Mmm, how about this?” he mumbled as his tender lips touched mine, pulling me in.
© 2013 by Jennifer Gibson
Open Book Society:
Thursday, August 29, 2013: Dawn of Open Book Society reviews Destiny.
She says: “Destiny is another great continuation story with Jessie. I have come to worry about her and how her life is progressing. Jessie is a wonderful character to enjoy. She is many things but especially courageous. It is a joy to be on a journey with her…Again, this is a great series to teach about disabilities and bullying. I think the book especially appeals to young adults. Destiny is a perfect book for a book club.” READ FULL REVIEW
Thursday, July 17, 2014: Destiny Gets 5 Stars from Danita Dyess of Reader’s Favorite.
She says: “Jennifer Gibson’s ability to create artistic, mystical book covers is evident with the cover on Destiny, the third book in the award-winning trilogy featuring Jessie McIntyre. Previous books included Sway and Compass. As a noted photographer and illustrator, Gibson’s penchant for writing coming of age stories and young adult fiction is captured through the use of diverse characters, an interesting plot and duality of reality with the supernatural. This story is based on real life and its authenticity allows it to address real-life issues. The sexual electricity between her and Ethan was well written and an important aspect of people dealing with disabilities. Destiny is a must-read for all young adults.” READ FULL REVIEW