Buy Whatever Life Throws At You
Special price $9.42 Regular price: $12.44
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Reviewer: Melissa on July 15, 2015
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Life loves a good curveball…. Seventeen-year-old Annie Lucas’ life completely changes when her father returns to major league baseball as the Kansas City Royals’ new pitching coach. She’s living in cold Missouri, attending a school without any boys, and trying to navigate the complicated world of professional sports. But she also has dreams of her own – namely placing first in every mile and two-mile race she’s in and becoming friendlier with the Royals’ newest hot rookie pitcher. Of course, 19-year-old Jason Brody is completely off-limits, and not just because her dad would kill them both if he ever found out. Brody has an “interesting” past, and his fan club mainly consists of C-cupped models, not high school aged “brats” who could run circles around every player on the team. The very last thing that Annie should be doing is falling in love, but in Julie Cross’ Whatever Life Throws At You, baseball isn’t just a game for these characters. It’s their lives. And sometimes, it can break your heart….
To say that I’m not a baseball fan would be an understatement. In fact, the last time I watched it willingly was in 1993 when the Toronto Blue Jays were in and won the World Series for the second consecutive year. Even then, I only watched the last games between them and the Philadelphia Phillies, not any of the regular season games or the previous games in the world series. While I may not love baseball, I really enjoyed reading Whatever Life Throws At You, even though baseball isn’t just a prop used by the author to create drama. Cross uses all sorts of other baseball-related details and terminology, which make the world of the major leagues real for readers even if they’re hardcore fans of this sport.
Of course, baseball isn’t the only sport featured here as Annie held the state title for the one mile when the book opens in Arizona. As with most sports narratives, there’s a lot on the line, especially for Annie, her dad, Jim, and Brody. If Brody messes up, then he could be sent back to the farm team in Texas, Jim might be out of his first high-paying job in years, and Annie will no longer be able to attend the new school with high academic standards and one of the best track and field programs in Missouri. With consequences this high and an example of what can happen when sports stars don’t have a plan B in Jim Lucas, it really keeps readers on their toes when they know that brooding good looks, 100 mph fastball, the ability to run a four-minute and fifty-four second mile, or a charming personality might not be enough to guarantee either a high-powered career in professional sports or the attention of a university scout.
While sports are a huge part of the story, they’re not the only plot line worth noting in this book. (Due to the nature of the story and the characters ages, some readers would classify it as either YA or New Adult (NA) romance. *) Annie and Brody’s relationship is all kinds of sexy as is Brody himself– it’s no surprise why Annie froze when she saw him for the first time or why so many beautiful women are throwing themselves at him. However, the hot guy factor isn’t the main reason I recommend this book. First, Brody is a very hard-working, Hispanic guy, who doesn’t have any contact with his family or culture and has a learning disability. In other words, he’s a great example of a diverse, intersectional character and a welcome addition to YA.
I also loved that Annie and Brody’s relationship puts a huge emphasis on communication, especially when it comes to sexual consent. We’re told that Brody has a bad reputation before Annie ever meets him in person, but once they become friends and begin a relationship together, we realize that he isn’t the type of person we’ve been told he is. If he ever was, he isn’t anymore. No one who valued communication and mutual understanding as much as Brody does could really be a bad guy. When so many popular romance storylines involve a bad boy who goes from bad to worse in some way over the course of the novel, it’s nice to see warm and fuzzy feelings developing between a good girl and a guy who really deserves a second chance.
What initially hooked me on Whatever Life Throws At You, however, was the relationship between Annie and her dad, especially the specter of cancer in their lives. Long before this novel begins, when Annie was a baby and Jim Lucas had only played his first major league game, he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma and had his leg amputated. Over the first three chapters, Annie slowly details what she knows of the back-story, the sound his non-leg makes on the floor of their home, and how it affects her life today, including the stressful scans he still has periodically. When I read these details, I wanted to ask my dad questions because his mother – my grandmother – was diagnosed with the same type of cancer and had one of her legs amputated before I was born. ** This personal connection to the parent-teen relationship made me want to keep reading when I was still unsure about the baseball theme.
Beyond the first details that intrigued me about Annie’s relationship with her dad, I loved how well they get along and respect one another. Her dad includes her in important decisions that will affect her, such as whether he should take the job with the Kansas City Royals, which is important because her mother, who is mostly out of the picture, is a huge source of stress for Annie. At the same time, it’s a real and believable representation of the father-daughter bond because it isn’t without conflict. Even when they don’t see eye-to-eye, it is clear that their familial relationship is important to both of them, and readers will get the sense that they’ll be able to overcome these problems before they become insurmountable.
From strong parental figures and a believable exploration of major league sports to a steamy romance, Whatever Life Throws At You won’t make you turn pages as quickly as Brody’s fast ball or Annie’s mile or two-mile runs, but it’ll be pretty close. Add in the tension-filled plot twists included in the novel, and you’ll have a really good story featuring a diverse and intersectional love interest.
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* Since Annie is only 17, I’m inclined to call this a YA novel, especially since it’s part of the Entangled Teen imprint, not one of their NA imprints. However, Jason Brody is 19, and some of the intimate scenes between him and Annie are not only smoking hot, but also on the explicit side of what is shown in most YA novels. In other words, I think it straddles the lines of typical young adult and new adult fiction, ensuring that it will easily appeal to both young people and adult readers of YA.
** In my grandmother’s case, the amputation was too late, as the cancer had already metastasized unbeknownst to her doctors, and she died before I could ever meet her.