Title: Letters to Nowhere
Author: Julie Cross
Release Date: August 2, 2013
THOUGHTS:Seventeen year old Karen Campbell has just lost both her parents in a tragic car accident. Grief stricken and alone, her gymnastics coach opens his home to Karen, providing her a place to live while she continues to train, working toward a spot on the world championship team.
Coach Bentley’s only child, seventeen year old Jordan is good-looking and charming enough to scare away a girl like Karen—someone who has spent ten times more hours on balance beams and uneven bars than talking or even thinking about boys. But the two teens share a special connection almost immediately. It turns out Jordan has a tragic past of his own, grief buried for years.
As Karen’s gymnastics career soars, her nightmares and visions of the horrible accident grow in strength. She can only avoid facing her grief for so long before it begins to surface and ultimately spin out of control in a very dangerous way. Can discovering love and lust (simultaneously) help with the grieving process or will it only provide a temporary distraction while waiting for reality to hit full force?
As a huge fan of gymnastics (and I do mean HUGE - I stay up to watch all sorts of competitions from all over the world and everything, plus I cried like a baby when Alicia Sacramone announced her retirement), this book is something that I simply can't pass up. I adore everything about the sport - from the highly intricate routines and down to the drama that comes with team selections - and I have nothing but respect for what these gymnasts go through just to achieve their goals. When I saw Julie ask for bloggers who would be willing to review an early copy of her new novel set in the elite world of gymnastics, I jumped at the offer. Not only do I follow the sport, I'm also a huge fan of Julie's Tempest series, so it's a win-win right?
Damn right it was!
I was half-expecting a sort of watered-down version of elite gymnastics (hey, Make It or Break It) but Cross surprised me with how accurate everything was. Folks, if you want a deeper look into the world of US Gymnastics, this is it. The skills, the elaborate selection process that comes into making a team, the choices that plague an elite athlete's life, the grueling training and conditioning... Cross didn't skip past ANYTHING. Every single thing that cements the notion that elite gymnasts are among the world's toughest athletes... Yup, all here. Cross was able to paint such a vividly detailed picture of the world of elite gymnastics, and I believe this is possible due to her experiences as a coach and (I'm going to assume here) as a serious fan of the sport.
Cross did such an amazing job writing this novel. Elite gymnastics - the skills, the scoring system - is not exactly an easy sport to fathom (I've been following the sports for a few years now but there are still skills I can't name), but she was somehow able to make the novel as easy to understand as possible. Also, Cross was able to portray how these gymnasts sacrifice so much of their childhood to fulfill their dreams. The way Cross wrote as Karen truly shows that though Karen may be seventeen, she has been sheltered all her life, and there are situations that others teens may perceive as normal that she hasn't encountered yet. I also loved the concept of Karen writing in letters what she can't say to other people face to face - it shows that even the strongest athletes are still human, and that they can still go through what everyday people go through.
Off the bat, I loved Karen, and I couldn't help but root for her every step of the way. Heck, I can almost see her as one of the gymnasts I cheer for at Worlds and the Olympics! I wanted nothing but the best for her - I wanted her to shoot for the stars and continue towards her dream of being an accomplished elite gymnast; I wanted her to face her fears and come to terms with her grief towards her parents' sudden death. I wanted her to get that Amanar on vault and that standing arabian on beam; I wanted her to finally be able to speak her thoughts out loud. I yearned for her to get that self-confidence she badly needed, and most especially, I wanted her to fight for HER dreams. Not her parents', not her coaches', but hers and hers alone.
Nothing about this novel's romance felt forced. Jordan is a great male lead, and I enjoyed reading about him tremendously. I can't help but adore just how easily he understood what Karen was going through, and just how willing he was to help her through her most difficult times. Karen and Jordan started off as friends, and I believe that's what makes the gradual change of their relationship to something more so believable - it wasn't all about lust, but rather more about trust. Both characters were able to understand each other so thoroughly, and their connection was just so palpable!
Julie Cross really impressed me with this novel. The writing, the characters, the plot... everything was perfect. I honestly felt like I was able to connect to every aspect of Letters to Nowhere, and I truly can't wait to find out what else she has Julie has in store for us in the next two books of the series!
Rating: 5 Stars