Julie Cross‘s LETTERS TO NOWHERE was one of those impulse buys (helped along by the bargain price, I may add).
I’ve gotten used to the dead parents face. I’ve gotten used to living with my gymnastics coach. I’ve even adjusted to sharing a bathroom with his way-too-hot son. Dealing with boys is not something that’s made it onto my list of experiences as of yet. But here I am, doing it. And something about Jordan–being around him, talking to him, thinking about him–makes me feel like I can finally breathe again. That’s something I haven’t been able to do lately. He knows what it feels like to be me right now. He knows what it’s like to wonder–what now? I think about it constantly. I need answers. I need to know how to get through this. In the gym, if you’re struggling, you train harder, you do drills and conditioning. How do I work hard at moving on? At being on my own? And what happens if I might be…maybe…probably falling for Jordan? I mean we live together now. That can’t happen, can it? But kissing him…well, let’s just say it’s not an easy activity to forget.
John’s review at Dear Author prompted me to give a new-to-me author a shot, and I ended up falling in love with this unexpectedly compelling YA. The plot sounded fairly generic YA if I’m perfectly honest – every other YA/NA seems to start off with a traumatic incident for the protagonist, and on the face of it, this was just another book telling the story of a teen who’s dealing with the death of her parents.
But Karen grabbed my attention from the start. She’s the kind of girl who is just so very easy to root for – she’s sixteen, and dealing with the loss of her parents with this hard-won maturity and wry humour. She’s trying to steer herself through her grief, balancing what she wants for herself against what she thinks her parents would have wanted, and I have to say some of her letters to her parents left me with a lump in my throat. But despite all of this, this was actually a feel-good story – not only did Karen make me laugh out loud at times, she has this competitive edge and quiet self-confidence, which made her come alive.
Which brings me to the sports element of this story, which completely worked for me. Julie Cross’s bio hints at her gymnastics background, which is put to excellent use here. I freely admit that all my knowledge of the sport is gleaned from the TV coverage whenever the Olympics come around, but I found this a fascinating peek into the world of elite gymnastics. Plus as bonus: the way Karen’s friendships with her fellow gymnasts were portrayed. They were both friends and competitors at the same time; it was really positive when showing how being supportive didn’t preclude holding back in competition – in fact, it was the opposite at times.
As for Jordan (a.k.a. swoony crush) – ah, he’s one of the good guys. It was one of those lovely friendship-to-romance relationships; I loved their funny and frank conversations and yes, their chemistry leapt off the page. And Coach Bentley… with all the media stories about authority figures crossing the line, you know it’s got to be handled well – and it is.
So yes, I loved this book, and I really hope Julie Cross returns to this world because I want to know what Karen does next.