Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Books I've Read: Finding Balance

There was a lot to like about this book.  It deals with two different experiences of being a cancer survivor which is not something I've seen in a book before.

Mari can't hide the fact she's had cancer.  It took one of her legs and because of the nature of her amputation, a prosthetic leg isn't comfortable or the best option for her.  She's used to people looking at her as she navigates the world on her pink crutches, and even deals with the odd fall now and then with humor and grace.

Jase had leukemia as a young child and barely remembers the experience.  When he started high school, he made the conscious decision not to tell anyone about it after dealing with some vicious bullying in middle school.  The only time he ever really thinks about being a survivor is at the summer camp for cancer survivors he's been going to for years.  A summer camp where he and Mari are best friends.

When Mari transfers to Jase's school, he's terrified their cancer connection might be discovered and his secret revealed.  So instead of helping Mari settle in, he's a jerk to her.  But he can't deny the attraction he feels for her.

Mari is hurt by Jase's attitude to her, and further humiliated by his girlfriend's ignorant and insensitive remarks.  She and Jase were so close at camp.  What happened to change that?

The book navigates these two survivors' stories as they struggle to understand their feelings for each other and a world that sees each of them differently.

I liked the way this book explored the idea of visible and invisible disability and how people view them differently.  It's not a subject I've seen covered often in YA books and it's something so many people deal with every day.  Jase was a jerk through a lot of the book, but I felt like this behavior was realistic given his past and his desire not to been seen through the cancer lens.  His growth through the book was the most significant and it was gratifying to see the way his friendship with Mari changed his perspective on the world and his place in it.

Some of the characters, particularly Jase's ex-girlfriend Lindsay and her friends were painted a little too broadly for my liking.  They were too clueless and too mean to feel realistic. I mean, at seventeen you should know cancer isn't contagious...

But overall, this was an interesting book that I enjoyed reading.  I didn't even realize it was the second book in a series until after I'd finished it!  Thanks to NetGalley for letting me read it in advance.

But don't just listen to me.  Here's the blurb: 

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?


  1. Sounds like an interesting approach to the story, especially with Jase not really remembering his cancer experience.

    And yes, at seventeen, one should really know that cancer isn't contagious.

  2. Bullying someone because they had cancer? That part is shocking to me. In my experience, illness was always the one thing that was off limits. Not that I'm saying it doesn't happen. I mean, it's bullying. Of course it happens.