Hi all! Today I’m sharing a contemporary Young Adult romance from best selling author Julie Cross. Released yesterday, WHATEVER LIFE THROWS AT YOU is a solid read for older teens.
About WHATEVER LIFE THROWS AT YOU:
Seventeen-year-old Annie Lucas is too young to remember her dad’s glory days as a pitcher for the Yankees. So when her father is offered a coaching position with the Kansas City Royals, Annie is intrigued to see the baseball side of her dad. Of course, knowing he’ll be a mentor to hot young rookie pitcher, Jason Brody, certainly makes it more enticing.
After an awkward first meeting with “Brody” involving very little clothing and a much-too-personal locker room interview, Annie’s convinced she knows Brody’s type: arrogant, self-involved, bossy. As her dad grows closer to the pitching phenom, the friction between Brody and Annie increases. But when opening day arrives and it looks like both her dad and Brody may lose their dream jobs, Annie steps up and offers support. She and Brody call a truce that grows into friendship—and beyond. Falling for a rising star who’s quickly reaching a level that involves rabid female fans is not what Annie would call smart, except suddenly she’s getting hints that maybe this crush isn’t one-sided after all. Could someone like Brody actually fall for a girl like her?
He eyes me skeptically. “What kind of article?”
“It’s for Sports Illustrated,” I say without hesitation and then quickly realize that I don’t look nearly old enough to be a real reporter for a huge publication. “I’m an intern,” I add.
The skepticism falls from his face and he looks nervous, which gives me a boost of confidence. I walk closer and pull out the chair in front of the locker beside his, propping my feet up on the bench across from me. “Frank Steadman said you’d be willing to answer a few questions.”
His mouth falls open, and he looks down at his towel and then back at me. Water drips from his hair and off his dark shoulders. “Um…okay,” he says. “Mind if I get dressed first?”
I wave off his concerns, my face heating up, blowing my confident cover. But him getting dressed might allow enough time for Dad to return, and I’d rather not have to deal with that. I duck my head down, letting my hair hide my cheeks and flip open the first page of the notebook. “This will just take a minute… So, you’re nineteen? And you’re from Texas?”
“Chicago,” he corrects.
I had no idea where he was from but figured it sounded better if I pretended to know. I write down this information and then search my brain for some more questions. “Does the wind in Chicago affect your curveball? Do you throw into it or against it?”
He gives me a funny look. “I…well…I just throw toward home plate.”
My face gets even hotter. “Right, kidding. What’s your favorite color?”
I take my time writing orange in really big loopy cursive while I think of my next question. “What are your opinions on sushi?”
His forehead wrinkles like I’ve just asked him to publicly declare a political party. “Raw fish and seaweed? I think it’s best eaten while stranded on a desert island with no other options.”
“Very diplomatic.” I scribble down his answer. “How many strikes have you thrown in your career?”
“Don’t know,” he says. “Do people actually count that stuff? Before the majors?”
“Some of them do,” I say, though I have no idea. “If you could be any magical creature in the Harry Potter series, which would you choose?”
“You said this is for Sports Illustrated, right?”
“Yeees, But it’s the…kids’ edition.”
“Oh, right.” He scratches the back of his head. “I guess maybe one of those elves.”
“A house elf? Seriously? They’re slaves.” I shake my head. “Why would you want to be an enslaved elf? They can’t even wear clothes.”
He grips his towel tighter and releases a frustrated breath. “Fine, I’ll choose an owl. That’s what I’d want to be.”
I snort back a laugh and drop my eyes to the page again.
“What? What the hell’s wrong with being an owl? They’re smart, they know geography and shit like that.”
“Owls in real life are actually pretty stupid. But no big deal, I’ll just relay that message on to the children of America. Jason Brody, temporary Royals pitcher, wants to be an owl when he grows up because they know geography and shit like that.”
Okay, I’m getting way too into this fake reporter role.
“Who says this is temporary?” he snaps.
“Your two-way contract.” Isn’t that how Dad explained it? He plays a few games then goes back to Triple-A, all without signing a real major league contract.
He yanks a pair of jeans from his locker and then grabs a bundled up orange T-shirt. “Well, I plan on kicking some ass on Opening Day and making this a permanent gig.”
“I think you need a reality check,” I say. “One game isn’t going to be enough–”
“Annie, what the hell are you doing?”
I leap off the bench and turn around to face Dad and Frank standing about five feet from me. “Introducing myself to your new pitcher.”
“Brody, what are you doing here, son?” Frank asks. “We’re off today.”
“Just getting in some cardio and weights.” His gaze darts from me to Dad to Frank. “I was just finishing up this interview for Sports Illustrated. The kids’ edition.”
“Well, we won’t keep you from getting your clothes back on, then,” Frank says, like he’s trying not to laugh. “And just for future reference, all interviews will go through the team’s publicity department so no one will be wandering in here, surprising you. Savannah will meet with you tomorrow to discuss publicity.”
Dad moves forward and extends a hand to Jason Brody. “Jim Lucas, nice to meet you, son. I’ve seen your spring training videos. You’ve got some real talent. I’m looking forward to working with you.”
Brody shakes Dad’s hand, his eyes still on me.
“And this is my daughter Annie,” Dad adds.
Brody glares at me. “Let me guess—you don’t work for Sports Illustrated?”
This is a mature YA read due to sexual content that is accurate, age-appropriate, and handled with tact.
Annie is a high school junior whose father was a hot-shot pitching prospect 17 years ago. He was signed to the Yankees, played one game and was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, never returning to the game as a player. Now, he’s being recruited by a longtime baseball friend to be a pitching coach for the Kansas City Royals. It’s a long way from Arizona where Annie, her dad and her senile Grams life a quiet life.
Annie likes it quiet, and hates when her flighty mother drops in–as she tends to do every couple years, or so. So, she urges her dad to make the move, and NOT reveal their new address to his estranged wife.
Annie’s dad’s main job is to refine a hot-shot prospect, Jason Brody, who has a great arm, and a bad history. He’s nineteen, an ex-con? (Sorta) Anywho, Annie and Jason spend a lot of time together, and Annie develops the teensiest mega-crush on the pitcher. But, she can’t act on it. First, she’s 17, he’s 19. Second, if anything goes wrong with Jason, her dad’s out of a job. Third, does it matter? You know she’s going to make a play for him…
Here’s the thing, this isn’t a flitty teen romance. It gets to the seemy underside of pro sports. Annie’s new BFF Lenny is the daughter of First Base. He’s a playa, and his famiy is polished yet fragile. Lenny’s a smart girl, but likes to cut loose, bringing Annie along for the ride.
Jason’s a decent guy, even if he’s attracted to a high school girl. Actually, one thing he really lacks in his life, a family connection, is something that he really admires in the bond between Annie and her dad. He’s infatuated with the idea of being a part of a family again, ever since his mother disowned him.
I really enjoyed the playfulness, and the introspection. Annie is a confident character, not a hot mess. She has goals–and is extremely competitive–yet she is human. She sees the heartbreak of a teammate and makes a choice to help someone else, instead of herself. She is mature, having practically raised herself with no mom around. And, she is fierce in her love for both family, and Jason.
The book unfolds over the course of the baseball season–roughly five months. The feelings develop and are expressed in terms of months, not weeks, so we don’t get whiplash from INSTALOVE, which is grand. Again, the characters do become intimate. In careful stages. With lots and lots of verbal communication. They make responsible, adult decisions and though Annie’s dad goes a tiny bit (read: whole lot) ballistic, life works out well for all the characters. In a way that doesn’t compromise the MC’s ideals.
Yes, there are curveballs. Yes, sometimes Annie has to perform a suicide squeeze when she wants to hit a dinger. Yes, Jason is panty-melting hot–and Annie’s not sure if he’s capable of reading her signs. The baseball metaphors are sprinkled throughout the book like poppy seeds on a Chicago style hotdog bun, and it worked for me. (side note: this reviewer played 10 seasons of fast pitch softball and spent her youth, and adulthood, cheering on the White Sox.) I appreciated the appropriate language of the game, and how skillfully the story enfolded all aspects of baseball in a way a non-fan could still understand.
A big hit, for me. I received an ARC via NetGalley.
Julie Cross Bio:
Julie Cross lives in Central Illinois with her husband and three children. She’s a former gymnast and longtime gymnastics fan, coach, and former gymnastics program director with the YMCA. She’s a lover of books, devouring several novels a week, especially in the young adult and new adult genres. Outside of her reading and writing credentials, Julie is a committed—but not talented—long-distance runner, creator of imaginary beach vacations, Midwest bipolar-weather survivor, and expired CPR certification card holder, as well as a ponytail and gym-shoe addict.
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