Today I’m really excited to spotlight a book that was just released this weekend. Read more about Letters to Nowhere by Julie Cross!
About the Book
Letters to Nowhere
By Julie Cross
Released: August 2, 2013
Genre: YA Contemporary Romance
Her family may be shattered, but her dreams aren’t…
From the International Bestselling Author of the Tempest series
A Mature YA contemporary set in the tough world of Elite Gymnastics.
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.
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This book was so different from anything I’ve read in awhile. While it was about a girl losing her family, beyond that it was about a girl making the most of herself. As an elite gymnast, Karen has a pretty straight-forward life. So when her parents die, her gym coach offers to allow her to live with him so she can continue training and her life turns sort of upside down. He has a son the same age as Karen (Jordan). Jordan and Karen get off to a rocky start when she catches him making out on the couch. Like any good roommate though, she doesn’t rat out Jordan to his dad. The two begin to hit it off and Karen learns they have a lot in common. Of course, you see where this is going, right?
Although I was a bit weirded out at first at living in the same house as the guy she likes, the two were just so darn right for each other. And while they hid it from everyone, they set clear rules and boundaries, which shows responsibility, so the mom in me was happy about that!
As for the gymnastics part — this book was so visual. I used to be into competitive gymnastics as a kid, and this book brought back so many memories. But beyond that, Cross was able to explain the details so well that I couldn’t help but see everything in my mind. The smell of the chalk, the sound of the spring board, etc. And yes, it is very technical, but honestly that didn’t bother me at all. In fact, I spent time looking up the terms so I could understand what Karen was doing. Even if you aren’t a gymnastics fan, I really think you’ll love the book anyways.
How Karen raised her expectations of herself and allowed herself to push for goals that others (her old coach and parents) told her not to, was really inspiring. It was like she finally found her drive and purpose. I am so pro-college, but I think Karen made a great choice to pursue her dream, even if it meant giving up a sure thing. We really see Karen grow and begin to deal with her new life and grief. I like that she didn’t hold back from her therapist the way a lot of teenagers do. She was really open to receiving the help she needed to get better. And she was a strong individual and role model to readers. And the relationship she builds between her and her coach was really great. He was an amazing character!
I loved seeing the play off of the two teenagers relationships with Coach Bennett. First we have his son who just moved home from boarding school and barely seems to know his dad. And then we have Karen having to balance having him as a guardian and a coach. These things really add to the complexity of the book.
I thought the book dealt with the heavy issues in such a profound way. Everything was so touching and sweet, even when it was dealing with heavy, heavy issues. I definitely recommend this to teen girls who like sports/cheer/gym/dance and anyone who likes books dealing with tough issues. I am definitely a fan of Cross’ writing style and can’t wait to start her Tempest series now.
Overall: 4.5/5 stars
About the Author
From Julie’s website: I live in central Illinois with my wonderful husband and three kids currently between the ages of 7 and 12 (the kids not the husband). My writing journey began in May, 2009 with a short story in a notebook.
Within a year, I had written seven (some good some God-awful) young adult novels. Not being a college graduate and having spent the previous fifteen years teaching gymnastics and working as a YMCA Program Director for Recreational Gymnastics, professional writing wasn’t in my plans. Not even close. But ever since the day I started that short story, I haven’t been able to stop. It was love at first sight.
After about a year of writing, I had a three book deal with St. Martin’s Press, and a film option with Summit Entertainment. Crazy, right? I know. It wasn’t until August of 2011 that I quit working full time in order to be at home with my kids more and of course, write more. My young adult time travel debut novel, Tempest, released on January 17, 2012. The rest of my personal story remains unwritten.
Connect with Julie:
Website | Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter
Inside the Author’s Head
Welcome to the blog! Can you first tell readers what drew you to write this story?
My background as a gymnast/coach/gymnastics program director is the inspiration behind the book. I love the sport so much and to have that as the back drop of this story was truly a writing dream of mine.
Obviously, you have a lot of experience with gymnastics. Just reading this book, you could feel the heart and passion you have for the sport. So how much of this book was personal experience? Did you ever dream of being an elite gymnast?
My own competitive level was nowhere near Karen’s, the main character in Letters to Nowhere. I participated in many sports when I was growing up—ballet, swimming, track, soccer, softball, color guard. For elite gymnasts, there’s not really time for anything else. And you have to be on the elite track by at least 6 or 7 years old for female gymnasts. As a coach, I worked with kids in a pre-elite program, some of them only 4 years old. I went to camps at the National Training center just like my characters in LtN do and I definitely loved coaching gymnasts that were potentially heading toward that elite goal.
How did your studies and experiences in life help shape who you are as a writer and your books?
This is a hard question to answer because I think there’s several types of writers out there. Some write about things they’ve experienced in a fictional setting and others, like me, often choose to venture into unknown waters. While I have a very good understanding of the sport of gymnastics, the skills, all the technical side as well as the mindset of the athlete, without actually being a teenage girl training 40 hours a week in one sport, traveling the world for competitions, taking school classes online instead of in a classroom to allow more time to train, there’s no way for me to know exactly what that’s like. I also don’t know what it’s like to lose my parents, as Karen has experienced. So, again, Letters to Nowhere, despite being a slight home court advantage for me, is still a journey into the unknown, at least somewhat. So maybe my lack of major tragedy in life has created this desire to find a way to connect and sympathize with what others are experiencing.
Okay, so I always like to see what authors read. What are your top five favorite books and why?
Top favorites of all time are hard to list but when asked this, I always include Number the Stars by Louis Lowry and Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Those books represent strong childhood memories for me of understanding a life outside of my bubble for the first time.
Recent favorites include Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, and Everyday by David Levithan—I can’t explain in a short statement what I love about these books so I’ll just say that I have a shelf on Goodreads labeled as my “Makes you think” bookshelf and these titles are on it.
Night owl or early bird? How does it help with your writing process?
When I first began writing, I still worked full time so late at night was my only option. Now I write while my kids are at school, so between 8am and 2:30pm and my body has adapted to make those hours typically my most energetic and productive.
Did you always know you wanted to be an author?
No, I didn’t really ever write fiction until a few years ago—May of 2009 to be exact. But I always loved books and spent lots of hours in school making up stories in my head and ignoring the lesson in front of me.
If you could live in one ‘book world’ which one would it be and why?
The Harry Potter wizarding world for sure. It’s not just the magic and spells that entice me, also Hogwarts and boarding school in general sounds really fun.
Do you think this story is a stand alone? If not, where will your characters go in the future?
Right now, I am planning on writing a novella to follow LtN and then a full length book to follow that. I don’t want to spoil it by saying where they’ll go, but I will say that there’s so much to be accomplished still by both my main characters, Karen and Jordan.
Do you have any new projects you are working on? What can we expect next from Julie Cross?
In January 2014, the final book in the Tempest series will release and in addition, I have a co-authored New Adult series with book one, Halfway Perfect releasing next summer or fall most likely. October 2013, I have a mature YA/NA crossover releasing and it’s set in the world of professional baseball.
Thanks for chatting with us Julie!