We are so excited to bring you the Release Day Launch for Julie Cross’ WHATEVER LIFE THROWS AT YOU! WHATEVER LIFE THROWS AT YOU is a Young Adult Contemporary Romance, published by Entangled Teen!!
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***I received this book in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley, Entangled and in participation with this review tour.
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?
“‘Just so you know, if I had the crisis you’re having today, you’re the first person I’d want to see. You’re the only person I’d want to talk to.’ Our eyes meet and my heart beats like a wild animal locked in a tiny cage. My lips part, but no words fall out. Brody’s fingers move through my hair and my skin heats up, my thoughts jumbling and losing their grip on reality. ‘I’m sorry for not doing this sooner, and I’m sorry for doing it at all,’ he says. My eyes widen as he closes the gap between us, his lips hovering a millimeter from mine.”
- I’ve never been a sports person. Baseball has never even remotely interested me but Julie Cross does an outstanding job capturing the adrenaline and excitement of the sport, making it far more exhilarating than anything I’ve experienced attempting to watch a game. The hope and faith is profound. The way these guys are expected to perform, the stillness and quiet as pitches are made and prayers are sent up for a miracle play. It made me look at baseball in a whole new light. The scenes at the plate were a rush. The way Annie held her breath and stood enraptured as Brody made record-breaking pitches added to the overall drama and intensity of the storyline and reinforced her feelings towards him.
- It’s not often that parents are front and center in YA. Annie’s relationship with her father is so detailed and wonderful to read. He’s always there for her, encourages and supports her, even when she makes mistakes he makes an effort to understand where she’s coming from. Annie does the same and I loved that their relationship was not only based off of blood but mutual respect and friendship. Annie views her father as hero who has overcome so much in his life, who deserves the best, and is unafraid of challenging his poor decisions in love when it comes to her mother. The easy was they banter and laugh is as heartwarming as it is uplifting.
- Cross does a fantastic job capturing the dark and corrupt side of pro sports. The handlers and rules to maintain a specific image, the threats and job uncertainty for those just starting out, and the way things are paid off or swept under the rug to protect the team. The owner is the biggest jerk on the planet, he cares about nothing but how things look and will bully anyone into doing what he wants.
- Lenny and Annie are so different but their friendship is mutually beneficial. Lenny opens Annie up to new experiences, she teaches her to be sassy and to take risks, while Annie is the shoulder to lean on, an outlet for Lenny to confide her fears and desires too. Lenny has a lonely, depressing life, it shows that money and fame isn’t everything. Lenny feels unloved and she desperately wants validation or even a genuine hug from her parents. To the outside world, her life is perfect. Lenny is that character that you want to know more about, whose façade is slowly crumbling and the scared little girl is trickling to the surface. I felt deeply sad for Lenny.
- Brody is funny, charming, and has a reputation as a playboy, former delinquent. Brody is sexy, playful, and pushes Annie’s buttons while tantalizing her desires. Underneath his bad boy image, Brody is a sweetheart. He’s determined to make something of himself through his love of baseball and thirst for redemption. He’s got something to prove but mostly, he’s doing it for himself. Brody didn’t think he needed anyone until he had people value and put faith in him. In some ways, Brody, like many of the characters in this book, is lost and looking for a way to find himself and sort out his life.
- Annie lives life on the line between whim and drive. She has serious goals, loves to compete and win, and will push herself to the limit to be the best. Annie is charmingly awkward at times. She is spontaneous and her spontaneity comes and goes but when it comes, it usually results in disaster.
- The sexual scenes are avert your eyes, fumbling, embarrassing and crazy honest. The first time a couple starts to explore is not always perfect or pretty and I appreciated Julie Cross’ candidness in these characters.
- Brody’s relationship with his family, his reasons for leaving, and the explanation for his mother’s coldness weren’t developed enough to leave a strong emotional impact or to grasp the extent of Brody’s pain and solitude. The section that discusses his mother, father, and their family prior to baseball was rushed and the story could have been more flushed out, instead it almost felt random and it could have been a huge, powerful explanation of how Brody evolved into the great guy he is.
- The treatment of sex was weird, especially by the girls. On one hand, Annie is almost flippant and forward, proclaiming she’s done everything at least once, as if it’s just a fact of life, no emotion or anything behind her remarks. On the other hand, when Annie actually does become sexually active, she’s awkward and unsure, she rushes and is confused. The fact that she thought she had to have a certain level of experience and lie about it was puzzling but realistic. Lenny too lies about sex, she acts out to gain her father’s attention, mainly because he doesn’t care. It’s heartbreaking.
- The subplot with Annie’s mother fell apart towards the end without warning.
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?”
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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