Title: Whatever Life Throws at You
Author: Julie Cross
Release Date: 10/07/14
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
I have to talk about this book in two separate ways because I read Julie Cross’s Letters to Nowhere. I liked Letters to Nowhere and I liked Whatever Life Throws at you, but, sadly, when consider them together I end up not really respecting either book because they are, in so, so, so many ways, a very similar story.
Both stories have to deal with the world of professional sports: Letters to Nowhere gymnastics and Whatever Life Throws at you baseball. The main adult character in each one is a professional coach, Jordan’s dad in Letters to Nowhere and Annie’s dad in Whatever Life Throws at you. The difference is that Jordan’s dad acts as the mentor to Karen, the main character in Letters to Nowhere, and Annie’s dad acts as the mentor to Jason, the love interest in Whatever Life Throws at You, but is that really a difference? There are also complicated parental relationships in both books, Karen’s parents have just passed away which starts the Letter to Nowhere story and in Whatever Life Throws at You Annie’s mother has abandoned the family and Jason’s mother has completely written him off. Also the images on both covers are very similar.
As I was reading Whatever Life Throws at You I noticed all of that and it bothered me, but I was willing to overlook it because it wasn’t like a carbon copy, it was just similar, and still, it was well done and I enjoyed it, but then something happened that blew my mind. I don’t want to say too much about it because it happens very close to the end of Letters to Nowhere, but the setup for the moment when the romantic relationship between the main characters is EXACTLY THE SAME in both books. EXACTLY! It plays out differently because it happens more in the middle or last third or so of Whatever Life Throws at You, but it was insane. Mind blowing in the worst possible way.
If I had to give Whatever Life Throws at You a rating just on its own as if I never read Letters to Nowhere it would probably be 3.5 or 4 stars, I did really enjoy the story, but I enjoy Julie Cross’s writing and I enjoyed Letters to Nowhere so it makes sense that I would like another similar book that she wrote.
(I wanted to write about how the two books are different, but at the moment I’m having a difficult time thinking of the differences.)
Obviously the main characters are different. Jordan is the athlete and Annie is the daughter of the coach who’s interested in the the athlete. Jordan couldn’t be farther from a normal teen, but Annie is really just a normal girl, who’s been thrust into the world of professional sports, who worries about moving, making new friends, and school. Julie Cross does a great job of handling the complicated family situations in this book with both the blood families in the story (Annie’s, Jason’s, Annie’s friend’s, and the team’s publicist’s) and the family dynamics that develop between the players and staff of the baseball team.
The romance in the story was also outstanding. In both of the Julie Cross books I’ve read she does an excellent job of developing the characters as people and then slowing building up to a romance between the characters. Even though Jason was a few years older it was still a really honest, refreshing romance that had the highs and lows of a normal relationship.
Oh! I thought of something else that drove me crazy. The story is obviously about baseball and there’s a fair amount of baseball in the book, but I don’t think it would drive anyone who’s not a fan or not interested in baseball crazy. I really liked how rather than telling us the name of everyone on the team Cross referred to some of them just by their position (“short stop,” “third base,” etc.). Towards the end of the book I was thinking how Cross did a pretty good job with the baseball sections but then, right at the end, the Royals (props to Cross for picking the Royals as the team in the story, they are now in the middle of their first post-season run in a while) are playing a game in Yankee stadium and the Yankees bat in the top of the inning and the Royals bat in the bottom. Now maybe this will be changed in the final book (I read an ARC), but this little thing, which is such a basic baseball thing, drove me totally crazy especially because when the Yankees are up and when Jason has to pitch are so important to that moment in the story.
Bottom Line: On its own Whatever Life Throws at You is an solid book, it has interesting characters, a strong romance, and a compelling storyline, but having read one of Cross’s other books, Letters to Nowhere, the similarities are just too great to ignore. Both feature the world of a professional sports, a father in a mentor position, complicated family situations, and, most disturbing, the same setup for the pivotal moment in both romances. If you haven’t read Letters to Nowhere read this and enjoy it, but if you have be prepared to be underwhelmed.
I received an electronic review copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
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