Title: FINDING BALANCE
Series: BRAVE ENOUGH #2
Author: KATI GARDNER
Publication Date: SEPTEMBER 29, 2020
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 one 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. Mari 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?
Kati Gardner back at it again with another new wonderful story. I read Brave Enough back in 2018 and I loved it, so I automatically knew that this one will be good too which turns out to be correct.
This book tells a story of Mari and Jase whom I’ve met briefly in Brave Enough, and ever since then I’ve been wondering what their story was like. I was grateful to experience reading this book and to learn and find out what their story is. Let’s just say that I enjoyed reading their story.
Mari and Jase are both cancer survivors and they went to Camp Chemo together (it was like a summer camp but for cancer survivor kids). Fast forward after Camp Chemo, Mari moved to Jase’s school and things took an unexpected turn from there. Jase pretended not to know Mari because he was afraid that his friends would find out that he is a cancer survivor like Mari. So he did everything he can to make sure Mari doesn’t say a word about their Camp Chemo moments. Of course Mari felt hurt especially since he was the only person she knew outside of her new school, but due to her good heart she kept that one thing about Jase as a secret.
There was a lot of things happening in this book. From Mari and Jase attended Camp Chemo to Jase pretended he didn’t know Mari to Jase slowly trying to mend things with Mari to them growing closer that their friendship turns into something more to Mari dealing with bullies to Jase standing up for not only Mari but also himself and so much more. A lot of things went unexpectedly which surprises me and I was actually fine with that many surprises, really intrigues me.
The story focuses on a lot of pressing and important matters such as the many type of cancer, the survivors journey, the ups and downs of friendship and relationship, the pros and cons of cancer treatment, verbal bullying that often happen in schools etc. This book doesn’t just tell a wonderful and heart-touching story, but it also educate its readers about cancer and how big it can affect one’s life. There are so many lessons that we can take and learn from this book.
Mari is a strong female protagonist and I really admired her strength in this one. She had to endured a lot in the story, for example like how the students and teachers around her treated her, especially those spoiled rich kids who verbally bullied her which angered me, and those teachers that thought she was the problem because she was using her crutches instead of wheelchairs and blamed her for making other students fell on the ground while the other students should’ve been more careful.
What I really hated seeing in this book was how the rich kids verbally bullied Mari. Words can hurt someone and they didn’t realize how much their words affected Mari, and despite having to hear it all, Mari still stood up for herself and doesn’t back down from her bullies. Even though she cried sometimes, that doesn’t mean she was weak, in fact it made her grow a lot stronger. I loved how Mari doesn’t really care what those kids thought of her, and how she was handling the whole debate about her cancer treatment professionally while those rich kids tried so hard to bring her down.
The whole debate thing made me realize a lot of things when it comes to cancer treatments. I’m glad the author included it in this book, this can educate a lot of readers about cancer treatments and how much it can cost someone. Mari explained it really well and even handled the questions being thrown at her calmly. The only thing I hated about the debate was how Lindsay and her friend (I forgot her name) was trying to turn it into a fight between the rich and the poor. Lindsay and her friend are the prime example of spoiled rich kids who are so disconnected from reality and think everyone can afford everything just because they can afford basically everything. I hated how they responded to what Mari was saying the whole time, and props to Mari for being able to stay calm and handled the situation as best as she can.
Mari had a hard time trying to adjust to her life at her new school and I liked that she doesn’t try to change herself just to fit in. I liked that she was being herself and have the attitude of “I don’t care what others think about me,” that was truly inspiring. Even if she doesn’t have many friends at her new school, at least she still have her Camp Chemo friends.
Jase on the other hand is the total opposite of Mari. He can fit in and look normal because his situation is a lot different than Mari. He does have a lot of friends and all of them doesn’t know that he was a cancer survivor so he wanted to keep it that way. Unlucky for him because the moment Mari stepped her foot into his school, a lot of students have been talking about cancer and Mari’s journey as a cancer survivor. That topic becomes an everyday topic and that made Jase feel unsettled because he’d been trying to avoid talking about it and pretended as if he didn’t know what cancer is.
Honestly, I can understand how he was feeling the whole time and I get why he avoided that topic. There was a flashback from when he was still a little kid in which he was being bullied by another kid just because he had cancer. That scarred him and it will make anyone scared of being open about their cancer again, so I totally get it when Jase asked Mari to keep her mouth shut about Camp Chemo because he didn’t want his friends to know he attended it. He spent the whole book trying his best to shield that one information about him from everyone at his school, after all he was the best swimmer at his school and was quite popular too because of his excellent swimming reputation.
At one point I was confused by him because one day he was all good toward Mari and the next he was all cold toward her. The way he treated her was like switching from hot to cool to hot temperature. As much as I was annoyed with his sudden change in attitude and mood, I had to be patient with him. I expected him to share his journey as a cancer survivor with his friends like ten chapters before the book ended, but he did it in the final chapter instead. He had a lot of thinking to do but I was so proud to see him being able to finally talk about his journey with cancer and how he survived it. It took a lot of courage for him to do that but at the end of the day, he was brave enough to share it without having to worry about his friends judging him or what they were thinking. He was being brave and that was enough for me to be proud of him.
Moving on to Jase and Mari’s relationship. I knew that they would eventually going to get together romantically, it was just a matter of time. I do enjoyed their friendship and how it was slowly evolving into a romantic relationship. They do have a great chemistry, and the emotional connection they shared is like no other. I liked seeing how Jase really cared about Mari and how he comforted her whenever she felt down due to Lindsay verbally bullied her. I was actually cheering up for Jase when he defended Mari in front of Lindsay. He did the right thing.
My most favorite moment of them was when Jase visited Mari at the hospital and she was high from the meds that the doctor gave her, and she started talking about a lot of things and then Jase was just smiling at her and holding her. That was actually so sweet and he was really scared knowing what happened to her, that really showed how much he truly cares about her. The epilogue was the best, seeing them both together as a couple and hanging out with their friends from Camp. Just a bunch of cancer survivor kids hanging out together and enjoying their day. That was a very heartwarming moment and I actually teared up reading that part. I was happy seeing all of them happy, they deserved it.
Also bonus, Davis who is the male lead from the first book, Brave Enough, made some appearances in this book and so does Carson, his girlfriend who is the female lead of that book. It was good seeing them and the rest of the Camp Chemo kids again. It was nice of the author to show the readers the progress Davis made in this book and how he’d been holding up lately. He was doing so well after the rough things he had to go through in the previous book. I was glad to know his friendship with Mari still remain strong.
Finding Balance is about two cancer survivor kids trying to find balance in their lives. Jase and Mari had a lot things they need to do and they are trying to balance everything in their lives despite how tough it is for them. Their journey was beautiful with some emotional moments, and what they had to go through was very challenging for them and yet they survived. There are a lot of things we can learn from this book through the eyes of the main characters, and there are so many positive messages we can take from it. I really enjoyed reading Jase and Mari’s story, and learned about their journey as cancer survivors. As usual, Kati never fail to amazed me with her amazing storytelling skills. Brave Enough was amazing and so does Finding Balance.