Monday, October 6, 2014

ARC Review: Whatever Life Throws at You by Julie Cross


Title: Whatever Life Throws at You

Author: Julie Cross

Rating: 3 Stars

Release Date: October 7th, 2014

When it comes to authors, like Julie Cross, whose past work has received a variety of mixed reviews, I hardly know whether or not to invest in their trilogies. Is it worth my time to dive into those three books? Or am I doomed to emerge unhappy like countless readers before me? When Whatever Life Throws at You landed on my doorstep, though, I figured I had the perfect opportunity. Not only could I sample Cross's prose, but it was a contemporary stand-alone and bound to bring a heady dose of swoon into my life.

I found a lot to love within the pages of Whatever Life Throws at You. Cross's latest centers around seventeen-year-old Annie Lucas, a hard-core runner whose dream is to land a scholarship for track. Her father, once a major league baseball player who retired prematurely while battling cancer, has just been offered the job opportunity of a lifetime to return to baseball, this time as a coach, and Annie refuses to allow her father to give up this chance. All she wants is to see him happy and if that means moving across the country to an all-girls high school, it's a small price to pay. In Missouri, though, Annie doesn't expect to run into the Royal's new--and very attractive--pitcher. Nor does she expect to fall for him as hard as she does. Brody and Annie start out as mere friends but is Annie truly a match for a nineteen-year-old on the verge of stardom? And even if Brody finally sees Annie as more than a little-sister figure, there are always consequences for every action...

At the center of Whatever Life Throws at You is a strong father-daughter relationship which I fell head-over-heels for. When it comes to familial relationships, sibling bonds or parental struggles are often emphasized in YA so I appreciated the breath of fresh air Cross brought with Annie's relationship concerning her father. Annie and her father are best friends, practically. He's supported her all her life, especially with her mother breezing in and out of the house, and Annie both looks up to and respects him immensely. I really felt the strength of their bond, even early in the novel, and their growth arc throughout the novel is incredibly real-to-life. Moreover, I enjoyed how Cross juxtaposed the ease of Annie's relationship with her father to the turmoil of other parent-child relationships in the novel. Annie may not have a steadfast mother or a whole lot of wealth, but her father makes up for all of it.

Annie's relationship with Brody is additionally at the forefront of this novel. Brody is nineteen-years-old, out of high school, and about to become a star baseball pitcher. Annie doesn't expect him to like her, let alone care for her in any capacity, but as they spend more and more time together she can't help but begin to fall for him. What I love about their relationship is that it begins firmly as a friendship and their understanding of each other, their trust in one another, and the affection they share is a cornerstone of their bond. Brody has so many hidden layers to him beyond his ability to pitch and as Annie peels those back, slowly, the entire novel opens up in new and unexpected ways. What's more, I love Cross's decision to explore the sexual aspect of Brody and Annie's relationship. Cross doesn't romanticize sex, for one, which is a relief. What's more, instead of simply jumping from making out to outright sex, Cross fills in the gaps, proving there are more ways than one to grow physically closer to a partner. More often than not, these ideals are glossed over in YA and I give Cross props for approaching sex in YA in a new and improved light.

Yet, where Whatever Life Throws at You falters is in the dilemma built up over the course of the story. For one, it felt far too superficial and inauthentic for me to truly invest in and by the time all hell broke loose, I simply felt removed from the novel. What's more, it feels jarring against the backdrop of such a mature, realistic YA contemporary. Another aspect of the novel I felt could have used a dose of improvement were Annie's friendships outside of Brody. In her entire high school she makes exactly one friend and, even then, though their interactions were more frequent in the beginning of the novel, they almost entirely peter out by the end when the entire focus shifts to her romance with Brody.

So. Not. Cool. Yet, regardless of that, Whatever Life Throws at You is a sweet, swoon-worthy contemporary to curl up with for a few hours. I know next to nothing about baseball and still wound up enjoying it--there's just something about all the sports-related novels that are so much fun, what with all the fake tension about a game being lost--so I'd certainly recommend this to readers. Its positives outweigh its negatives by far and I'm looking forward to reading a voice as natural and authentic as Annie's from Cross soon.

16 comments:

  1. It seems to me that this book has a lot going for it! The strong father-daughter would be a huge plus for me too, and the romantic moments seem pretty well-done, aside from the tension source. I'm surprised the conlict seemed artificial and so poorly handled. I've only read Julie's Tempest series but I liked it a lot.

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  2. Nothing wrong with sweet, sometimes that I all I need

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  3. Hm... not liking how the conflict arises but is poorly executed. However, I'm loving the strong family. That is so needed in YA right now. Still might try it since everything else seems to be strong that I like in a novel. Hm...

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  4. I think I would read this for the strong father daughter relationship alone!

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  5. I'm a huge fan of Julie Cross's books, especially recently her Tempest series as well as her other NA book Third Degree which was brilliant. I can't wait to read this book it sounds amazing. Wonderful review, Keertana! :)

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  6. Glad you enjoyed this overall Keertana, even with the few small issues you had. It's a shame her friend takes a backseat when the romance becomes almost the sole focus, but I think now that I have a heads up about it, it won't bother me as much. Gorgeous, thorough review as always!!

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  7. I'm always for a book with a strong family bond, so a good father-daughter bond is a huge plus! Looking forward to reading this one myself! :)

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  8. It sounds like this one wasn't quite as realistic as it needed to be, for the topics it covered. I do like that the story focuses on a father/daughter relationship though.

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  9. i haven't read a single julie cross book and like you, i get very wary of authors with mixed reviews. can't decide if I should give her book a go! Whatever Life Throws At You (lemons?) sounds pretty interesting, and family relationships are some of my most treasured relationships in books... we'll see!

    Thank you for the BRILLIANT review!

    Alicia @ Noverly Things

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  10. Glad that you found this book enjoyable, Keertana! I got a copy of the author's trilogy and couldn't immerse myself in the story. This new work sounds much better! I'm always in the look-out for honest, authentic voice of heroine in YA. Strong father-daughter relationship is awesome too. :) Bummer that the dilemma doesn't feel real at all.

    Thanks for your awesome, honest review! :)

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  11. Love that there's such a strong relationship between the MC and her dad. I'm a big daddy's girl so I do love to see that (and would like to see more of those relationships!).

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  12. I really hate it when we get to read about some main character and her whole world spins around some boy. I mean yeah I get that you have a crush or whatever but c'mon there is more to life than that. Anyhow despite that it sounds like a really interesting read. Great review, Keertana :)

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  13. I do like that fact that Cross writes a positive parental relationship. So many times we see a bad connection and example. I've read a couple of Cross's stories. First her paranormal, Tempest and then a NA which I can't remember the title offhand, and I'm to tired *lazy* to look it up, but I really enjoyed the romance in both. I felt she does a great job at making them realistic. It seems like she did that here, and I could forgive the lack of high school friendships, especially since I didn't have more one friend who I could really trust/confide in. Wonderful review! I'll have to check this one out. :)

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  14. I've been a hit or miss with Julie Cross' books (I absolutely adored Letters to Nowhere while her Tempest series was a bit mediocre IMO); so I wonder which end of the spectrum this would fall under. It sounds like a decent read despite the minor problems you had with it, so I'm glad to hear you enjoyed it overall!

    I think the focus on friendship being sacrificed for a more romantic focus would probably bother me as well. I absolutely adore strong friendships in YA, and we don't get nearly enough of them; so it's sad to hear the romance route was taken instead, especially seeing as we already have plenty romances to go around. ;)

    Thanks for sharing Keertana, and fabulous review! <3

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  15. o.o a strong father daughter relationship in this one? wow that is a breath of fresh air

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