Voyage of Defiance by S.E. Smith (Review)



Kindle Price: $4.99

Official Rating: 1/5


An act of defiance that will either kill her or change her life forever…
Sixteen year old Makayla Summerlin enjoyed one thing in her crazy, messed-up existence: hanging with her friends at school. Her life is uprooted when she suddenly finds herself forced to live with the grandfather she barely remembers.
One act of defiance will change her life forever when she sets sail in her grandfather’s old sailboat after she has trouble adjusting to her new home. On a journey that will challenge everything she has ever believed about herself, Makayla must overcome her fears if she, and a surprising stowaway, are to survive.”

My Review:

This was an embarrassing book to read. I found it to be poor in writing and in content which is a shame because the synopsis and the cover are what drew me in. It looked fairly good and thus is how I was misled.

I couldn’t stand Makayla and that’s a huge issue. But it’s not my fault, she didn’t attempt to get me to like her. Makayla was rude, irrational, judgmental towards people she doesn’t know, insensitive, disrespectful, disobedient (but it is praised as defiance), irresponsible, and severely lacks the required skills to make good decisions. And it’s all wrapped up in an “I didn’t have the best childhood” bundle which, of course, gets everyone to excuse her behavior.
Don’t get me wrong, Makayla doesn’t have a great childhood. She’s gone through a lot and some of her behavior is understandable. However, the entire reason for her defiance is to prove that she’s better than her circumstances, but I didn’t buy it. Firstly, Makayla doesn’t understand how an addiction works. In many cases, it’s difficult for the person who is addicted to go cold turkey or stop in general. It’s difficult and stressful and it takes lots of support and encouragement from those around them. Instead of at least attempting to understand this, Makayla angrily demands that they choose ‘her’ instead of the drugs that have rendered the person unstable in a heated moment where it is obvious that the person in question is in no shape to make such a decision. It’s an addiction, Makayla. The addict is suffering too, this isn’t all about you and how you “obviously aren’t [wasn’t] good enough…” On top of that, when that person goes to get help and is improving, Makayla insists that she should be able to go back to her hometown to be with them. She doesn’t take into consideration that maybe that person doesn’t want her there right now so that they can focus on getting better. Instead, Makayla focuses on how she feels and how she’s suffering instead of trying to understand other perspectives. I won’t say that Makayla hasn’t gone through a lot because of this situation, but I still found her to be very selfish and insistent on thinking about herself no matter what.
Secondly, as I said, she’s just so rude. First, she insults Henry’s (her grandfather) home seconds after he finished saying how he considers it to be paradise. Then, once she gets it into her head that she desperately needs to go home, when another character approaches her and says he wants to work on the project they were assigned, she tells him she isn’t doing it and that “I just don’t care.” Even after hearing that he needs this project to be good so that he can graduate, she still blows him off. Makayla is stuck in the attitude that the world revolves around her and I found it tasteless.

Can I talk about Brian? We need to talk about Brian. Brian made me feel uncomfortable. And not the, “Oh, that’s kinda odd.” uncomfortable, no, Brian made me the “Please get away from me I feel threatened and harassed and would like to request a restraining order.” kind of uncomfortable. He’s two years older than Makayla and graduated last year, as the book says, so he’s a nineteen year old rising sophomore in college perving, not crushing, but perving on Makayla, a seventeen year old junior in high-school. During the same day that Makayla and Brian first met this scene happens: “Makayla rose out of the chair and stretched. She blushed when Brian released a low wolf-whistle when her tank top rose up and revealed a thin section of her stomach.” No thanks. Why would it be appropriate first nineteen year old to do that to a seventeen year old he just met? It’s creepy. The creepiest moment between Brian and Makayla was this: ‘“You make me feel things, Makayla,” he [Brian] muttered in a hoarse voice. “Henry would shoot me if he knew what those feelings were doing to me.”’ I was just entirely uncomfortable reading their interactions and I didn’t appreciate whatever this was at all.

The only other character I remember clearly (I had to look up Jason) was Tyrell and it’s for all the wrong reasons. Tyrell was one giant glaring trope of a character and it was completely saddening. At first, I thought, Oh. That’s pretty cool of Smith, she’s attempting to show how black males are misrepresented through harmful stereotypes! The reason I thought this was because of an event where Tyrell is framed for something he didn’t do, and it’s implied it was because he’s black (which was true). But then, as I continued, I realized the truth. Tyrell is a stereotype. Let’s look at the facts.
Tyrell is the only black character in the story who is significant. Now, his grandmother made an appearance a few times as well as his brother, who is, of course, part of a gang and a bad influence.

Here’s the very first sentence that was used to describe Tyrell: “Makayla glanced at the huge black boy sitting three rows over.” There was no other way to describe him except “huge black boy”? No other possible way? None? Then at the end of the paragraph, “He wasn’t overweight, he was just…big!” What a great description! I now know that Tyrell is a) big/huge, b) black, and c) a guy. That’s all I needed to know, thanks! Really? Even cliche descriptions of characters, the generic “I’m a petite girl with long mousy brown hair, dull brown eyes, and a heart shaped face” description, give more than that. Come on.
It doesn’t even stop there. Tyrell’s first thought (that the reader reads) is, “Most people just thought he was this big dumb black guy…” Alright wait. That’s the second time Smith has used ‘big’ and ‘black’ when talking about Tyrell, but now she’s added in dumb. Smith uses “big black boy” when talking about Tyrell one more time later in the story. When will it end? Trick question: It doesn’t.

(spoiler) Tyrell ends up being the stowaway on Makayla’s boat. And then we learn, Tyrell can’t swim. Ah. The ‘black people can’t swim’ stereotype. Smith even has Tyrell say, “You’ve got to park this thing and let me off. This black boy don’t do water…” At another time, Makayla says “Ten points for the black guy with a brain.” Smith, what were you thinking?

The plot of the story was a giant thumbs down. What seventeen year old, who is supposed to be really intelligent and independent, would think to themselves, Hey, I’ve had a few lessons with my grandfather on the general overview of how a boat works. I’m going to take a multiple-day long trip back home because I’m independent and defiant! Yeah! This is dumb. There are so many things that can happen out on the ocean, Henry even says “something can always happen.” Yet, she still believes she is well equipped to navigate on her own without telling anyone? This is defiance coupled with stupidity and this is how you get lost in the ocean and they never find your body or the boat again. I won’t even mention how the Defiance isn’t even her boat to take. And don’t listen to Jason, who I barely remember, saying, “She’s a natural at this and she has more common sense and guts than anyone I’ve ever met, including my own kids.” No? No no no, Jason. She does not. The rest of the book talked about sailing and I thought it was a pretty bland adventure. It may have been because I already didn’t like the characters, but even events that were supposed to be hair-raising didn’t change my heart rate (it may have slowed it down even more).


Would I Recommend Voyage of Defiance? Gracious, if it isn’t obvious by now, I’ve failed as a reviewer. I am immensely displeased with Voyage of Defiance with its writing, plot, and content as a whole and I would not recommend it.

I received this novel for free through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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