Whatever Life Throws At You
Julie Cross’s Whatever Life Throws At You straddles the line between Young Adult (the heroine is only seventeen) and New Adult (the characters have sex), making it hard to categorize. A wonky ending and a bit of slow pacing kept it from being an A read for me, but I can still recommend it for mature teens and adults who love to remember those days when a crush on an older guy consumed your world.
Annie Lucas couldn’t be happier when her father is offered a job as a pitching coach for the Kansas City Royals professional baseball team. Not only will moving from Arizona to Missouri get them away from her parasitic waste of a mother, but it will give Annie’s father, who lost his leg to cancer, a chance to be a part of the game that he loves. As long as Annie can attend a high school that has a great girls’ track program so she can continue to break racing time records, she’s good to go.
What Annie doesn’t expect is for ace rookie Royal’s pitcher Jason Brody to be so appealing. Brody is forbidden fruit for so many reasons. First, he’s nineteen to Annie’s seventeen. Plus, she’s still in high school, something the media would jump all over. And then there is Brody’s bad boy past. And the fact that, as the hottest new pitcher in the league, he’s practically surrounded by willing models and horny sorority girls. But the biggest obstacle to any romance with Brody is Annie’s father, a protective papa bear who would lose his mind if he found out his baby girl was dating one of his players.
Annie and Brody start off as adversaries and then become friends. When Annie’s feelings morph into a first class crush, she’s sure that Brody views her as nothing more than a little sister. It’s when it seems that Brody may actually return her feelings that things become really complicated.
I really enjoyed this book. The writing was solid, and I liked both Annie and Brody as characters. Overall the pacing was a bit slow, but I didn’t mind the ramp up to Annie and Brody’s developing romance. I liked the close relationship between Annie and her father, and Annie’s Grams, who suffers from Alzheimer’s, offered a sense of reality that many Young Adult books lack.
Too, Cross gives us a realistic glimpse into what I imagine it might be like to be the child of someone involved in professional athletics. There are the perks of money and access to a glamorous lifestyle, but there is also scrutiny by the media and the fact that one wrong step might cause the team big wigs to fire your dad. At one point, Annie and her friend Lenny, the daughter of a star Royals first baseman, are caught by the paparazzi when they are partying at a club where they used fake IDs to get in and to buy adult beverages. The fall out from that experience was realistic, with Annie having to face her irate father’s punishment and the damage control done by the Royals front office to keep the team’s image family-friendly.
As far as a couple, Annie and Brody’s relationship and its slow progression rang true. While I thought Cross made too big of a deal of the age difference between them – she’s seventeen and he’s only nineteen – I understood the reality of what would happen if the media got wind of a professional baseball player dating a high school girl.
The story clipped along at a steady if a bit slow pace until the last quarter of the book when things fell apart for me. A serious conflict arises when Annie does something behind Brody’s back that she intends only to be helpful but that he views as a betrayal of trust. The conversation that followed became almost incomprehensible as Annie and Brody deal with this problem and then throw in discussion about Annie’s lack of sexual experience and his expectations and/or lack of them. Add in their thoughts about when (or not) to tell Annie’s father about their relationship and the whole scene was a mess. When it was followed by a clichéd, too-stupid-to-live moment the next morning my grade dropped by a whole half.
Too, every obstacle that Annie and Brody faced to becoming a real couple was resolved so quickly that I practically got whiplash. Especially jarring was how they won over Annie’s father. It felt almost like Cross got tired of writing the story, knew she had to tie up all of the lose ends, and just came up with the quickest way she could think of to do so.
This is the second book written by Julie Cross that I’ve read, and both have been solid. If she can tighten up some confusing dialogue and work on pacing issues and simplistic resolutions, I’ll be looking forward to reading more by Ms. Cross.