I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Finding Balance by Kati Gardner
Series: Brave Enough #2
Published by Flux on September 29, 2020
Genres: YA Contemporary
Source: the publisher
Buy on Amazon, Buy on Barnes & Noble
Jase Ellison doesn’t remember having Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia when he was three years old. His cancer diagnosis only enters his mind twice a year. Once at his yearly checkup at the oncology clinic and when he attends Camp Chemo in the summer. No one in his “real” life knows about his past, especially his friends at Atlanta West Prep.
Mari Manos has never been able to hide her cancer survivorship. She wakes every morning, grabs her pink forearm clip crutches, and starts her day. Mari loves Camp Chemo—where she’s developed a healthy crush on fellow camper Jase. At Camp, she knows that she’ll never get “the look” or have to explain her amputation to anyone.
Jase wants to move on, to never reveal his past. But when Mari transfers to his school, he knows she could blow his cover. That’s the last thing he wants, but he also cannot ignore his attraction to her. For Mari, she only wants to be looked at like a girl, a person, and not only known for her disability. But how do you move on from cancer when the world won’t let you?
So, I got this book from the publisher at the AASL convention in November 2019. Originally it was supposed to be published in May of 2020, but because of all the COVID-19 stuff, it got postponed until September. However I wanted to go ahead and get my review done while the story was fresh in my mind, and I’ll come back and revisit with a promo post probably in September.
Now, I haven’t read the first book in this series, Brave Enough, and I don’t know when or if I’ll get it read, although I am definitely intrigued now. I was told you didn’t have to read that book to understand and enjoy this one, and I’m guessing that is true, because I didn’t feel like anything was missing from the story.
This was a really emotional read, but so good. There are a lot of books about kids with cancer out there, but I feel this one had something unique, or at least not often seen. The main character, Mari, lost one of her legs due to cancer when she was younger. The other main character, Jase, had cancer when he was very young, so young he doesn’t really remember it. And he is able to hide it. In fact, even though every summer he’s gone to a camp for kids who have had or do have cancer, since middle school, when his friends got cruel and teased him about having cancer when they found out, he’s been able to hide it at his new school. He and Mari are great friends at camp, possibly even summer love interests. But since he wants that part of his life kept away from his new friends, even at his new private school, when Mari shows up, he is cruel to her, and does everything he can to make sure no one finds out.
I totally hate him for this at first. Even though it is soon apparent from how the girls in his crowd treat Mari when she arrives, that he probably isn’t wrong to be worried about it. Because wow, the things the girls say are so mean. I mean Mean Girl on steroids! Now Mari does make friends at her new school, and is able to ignore the mean girls, and even move past the friendship she thought she’d already have in place with Jase. But they end up going back and forth, as he can’t stay away from her because he really does like her. But he also refuses to come clean.
There’s so much more to this story than their romance though. A lot of things about having cancer that we don’t always get in YA books. How getting a prosthetic leg isn’t as straight-forward and easy as it might be thought. How maybe someone might not even want one. The fact about how people with those types of handicaps are considered to be such miracles when they do get a leg or arm and are able to “do so many things.” Not wanting to be in the spotlight as being inspirational, just wanting to be a normal teenager.
There were a lot of tears for me in this, but a lot of smiles and laughs at times too. It was a feel good story in the end, and I was able to read it in less than two days because it was so hard to put down. I’ll be looking into getting this for my school library when it gets published next fall.