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Book Review

This coming-of-age novel by Amy Clipston is published by Zondervan and is written kids ages 16 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements

Conclusion

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

It's Valentine's Day, and 18-year-old Whitney Richards is having a bad day. Her boyfriend, Brett, breaks up with her, and her mother discovers that Whitney isn't doing well in calculus. Mrs. Richards is afraid the bad grade will hurt Whitney's chance of making it into Kentwood University, Mrs. Richards' alma mater. Whitney isn't sure she wants to attend KU and is angry that her mother is pressuring her to go. Mrs. Richards arranges for her to see a peer tutor anyway.

At school, Taylor Martinez tells Whitney that he's her tutor, and they schedule a time to meet the next day. Taylor is unpopular because he is poor and doesn't play sports. Whitney's friends start making fun of Taylor, but Whitney tells them to stop. She's surprised at how cruel her friends are and wonders if they've always been that way.

During tutoring, Taylor and Whitney get off to a rocky start. He thinks she's an unfriendly, spoiled, rich girl. Things don't warm up between them until Whitney runs into Taylor at the bookstore where he works and they discuss their favorite books.

Whitney visits her cousin Emily and opens up to her about her struggles with calculus, Brett and her mom. While they're talking, a motorcycle pulls in across the street. It's Taylor and his sister Vanessa. When she sees Whitney's varsity cheerleader sweatshirt, Vanessa asks Whitney to help her train for cheer tryouts. Whitney agrees, but Taylor doesn't trust Whitney and says no to cheer training.

During tutoring, Whitney confronts Taylor about his prejudice against her because she's a rich cheerleader. He refuses to admit his fault, and she storms out. That night, Taylor arrives with her cell phone, which she accidentally left at the tutoring session. He apologizes for how he treated her, and the two agree to be friends. Once Taylor's gone, Mrs. Richards tells Whitney she doesn't think Taylor is a good influence, and she doesn't want her hanging out with him outside of tutoring.

Since they agreed to be friends, Taylor begins to warm up to Whitney. She convinces him to let her train Vanessa to cheer. After their first session, Vanessa tells Whitney that Taylor likes her. Whitney doesn't think it's true, but the idea still excites her. She's confused by her interest in Taylor, since she intended for them to be just friends. When Mrs. Richards learns about the cheer training, she tells Whitney not to waste her time with Vanessa.

Whitney disobeys her mother and continues training Vanessa and spending time with Taylor. As Whitney grows closer to Taylor, she decides to invite him to youth group with her. He enjoys it so much that he starts attending Sunday service. Whitney is invited to Taylor's home after church, and she spends the whole day getting to know Taylor's mother and sister. Before she returns home, Whitney and Taylor almost kiss but are interrupted by a phone call.

During a cheerleading meeting, Whitney's teammates start asking about her relationship with Taylor. They make it clear they don't approve of him. Whitney is fed up with everyone trying to control her and dislikes how badly her friends treat Taylor. She notices how judgmental and shallow they are. Because of this, she feels out of place with the popular kids and quits the cheer team.

When Whitney tells Taylor what happened at the meeting, he's sorry their friendship is causing her problems. The two share a brief kiss before Taylor has to go home.

Taylor and Whitney's relationship continues growing until he asks her to be his girlfriend and prom date. She agrees and starts lying to her mother in hopes that she can hide the relationship. When Mrs. Richards discovers that Whitney's prom date is Taylor, she confronts her daughter.

Whitney admits that she started spending time with Taylor because she knew it would make her mom angry. She apologizes for lying, but her mother is hurt and doesn't think she can trust Whitney. Taylor overhears the conversation and breaks up with Whitney.

At youth group, Whitney talks to the youth leader, Jenna, about what happened with her mom and Taylor. Jenna suggests Whitney pray and ask God for the words to talk to her mother and Taylor. She promises that even though Whitney feels alone, God is with her. Whitney takes Jenna's advice and tries to make peace with her mom.

Whitney is allowed to attend the prom and goes stag. Taylor shows up at the prom and apologizes for being harsh when he broke up with her, and Whitney apologizes for lying. They decide to get back together.

Taylor drives Whitney to her home, and she introduces him to her parents as her boyfriend. Whitney also announces that she's decided to attend Kentwood University. She realizes that she rejected the college only because her mother pressured her to attend it. Her mother is thrilled, and both parents are welcoming to Taylor. Before Taylor leaves, he and Whitney profess their love and share a kiss.

Christian Beliefs

Whitney and her family are portrayed as faithful Christians. They pray before meals and attend church on Sundays. Whitney is part of the youth group. Whitney often prays to God. At first, she prays because she's been taught that's what a Christian does. By the end of the book, her prayers are conversations with God, and she shares everything about her life with Him.

Other Belief Systems

A friend wishes Whitney good luck.

Authority Roles

Whitney's mother is controlling. She closely monitors Whitney's grades, friends and school activities because she wants to make sure Whitney is making the right decisions and will be accepted by the “right” college. Though she's unreasonable, the reader knows that everything Mrs. Richards does is because she loves Whitney. Whitney's father is the peacekeeper of the family. Whitney has a good relationship with him and finds it easier to talk to him than to her mother. He is patient and tries to temper his wife's controlling nature.

Taylor's mother is a hardworking single mother. She dropped out of high school when she met Taylor's father and regretted it, especially when her husband left the family. She works hard so Taylor and Vanessa can focus on their schoolwork and earn good grades. She wants them to have all the opportunities she didn't have.

Jenna is the youth group leader at Whitney's church. Whitney talks to Jenna when the lies she's told catch up with her. Jenna offers godly advice and support. She reminds Whitney that even when she sins, God loves her and is with her.

Profanity/Violence

None

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Taylor and Whitney share a number of kisses. They don't do anything beyond hugging, kissing and holding hands. Whitney notes that kissing Taylor makes her heart pound, unlike the kisses she shared with Brett.

During a dinner party, Brett keeps asking Whitney to get back together with him. When she says no, he ignores her. Later, he grabs her and tries to kiss her. Mrs. Richards walks in before they kiss, but Whitney worries about what would have happened had her mother not arrived.

Whitney's friends mention that a couple from school are cheating on each other. No details are given beyond that they're unfaithful.

Discussion Topics

If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:

  • How does breaking up with Brett and getting a D on a calculus test start an identity crisis for Whitney?
  • Why do you think the book is called Destination Unknown?
  • How would you describe your identity?
  • Discuss a time when you had an identity crisis or felt pressured to be someone you're not.
  • How did you deal with that?
  • How can being a Christian help you figure out your identity?

  • How does Whitney feel about her mother's controlling nature?

  • How does Whitney's knee-jerk rebellion against her mother's college suggestion cloud Whitney's thinking?
  • What emotional reactions have clouded your thinking?
  • What strategies can help you make wise decisions and avoid acting on emotions alone?

  • What lies does Whitney tell throughout the book?

  • How does lying make her feel?
  • What happens when Whitney's caught in her lies?
  • Have lies ever damaged one of your relationships? How?

  • When Whitney's lies are discovered, with whom does she share her feelings?

  • What advice do Jenna and Emily give her?
  • To whom would you talk if you needed advice?
  • Is it easy or difficult for you to share doubts, concerns and mistakes you've made with others?
  • How about with God? Why?

  • Why do Whitney's friends dislike Taylor?

  • Discuss a time when you judged someone without actually knowing his or her character.
  • How can you avoid labeling people simply by appearance or social status?
  • Have you been judged unfairly?
  • How did it make you feel and how did you respond?

Additional Comments/Notes


This review is brought to you by Focus on the Family, a donor-based ministry. Book reviews cover the content, themes and world-views of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

You can request a review of a title you can't find at reviewrequests@family.org.

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