I received an ARC of Brave Enough from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
The book will be released on August 21st 2018 by Flux.
I have to start this review by congratulating and thanking Kati Gardner for this beautiful and brilliant debut novel. As someone who loves books about ballet dancers (you may have witnessed my love for Tiny Pretty Things and Shiny Broken Pieces on the blog), I knew I had to read this one as soon as I read the synopsis. Although there is a twist in Brave Enough; the ballerina has cancer.
In that one moment her perfect, prima-ballerina, pink-tutu world fell off its pointe. She wasn’t Cason Martin, prima ballerina, anymore. She was Cason Martin, number T7654908, cancer patient.
Cason Martin is a prima ballerina for Atlanta Ballet Company. She became a prima ballerina not only because of her brilliance but also because of her over-bearing mum who also happens to be her creative director, Natalie. The book starts with Cason feeling pain in her thigh while rehearsing for her audition. During her audition for the New York-based American Ballet Theatre, she broke her leg. Soon after, she found out that she has an aggressive form of cancer called Ewings Sarcoma and with that, her dream of becoming a dancer for the American Ballet Theatre is gone.
Davis Channing is a cancer survivor and a recovering drug addict. He’s sentenced to community service in the hospital wing for cancer patients. Although he has been sober for almost a year, he still fights with his demon and the thoughts of taking drugs “just once” is always in his mind, especially when things got tough. It doesn’t help that his ex-girlfriend, who is also an addict, keeps on popping up to see him; asking him for a fix or begging him to pay Ethan – Davis’ ex-dealer. His ex-girlfriend also always tells him that she’s an addict because of him whenever she’s trying to manipulate him for drugs or money, causing him to feel guilty.
The story begins when the two meet when Cason is in chemotherapy and Davis is doing his community service. The two have heard of each other because they both go to the same school; although they barely see each other because Cason missed schools due to her ballet schedules. Their friendship developed slowly and organically. Davis is drawn to Cason the moment he saw her. The two soon bonded over cancer and Davis always tries to help Cason overcome her fear and worries. Cason also soon finds herself cares of Davis more than she’s care to admit.
Honestly, I don’t think my words are enough to tell you how beautifully written this book is. Throughout the book, you’ll see how the two try to navigate this new chapter in their life; Cason being an amputee who may never dance again and Davis who’s trying to stay sober. They are each other anchor. Every word written feels raw. You can feel Cason’s anger that this happens to her. You can feel her fear and confusion of losing not just her ability to dance but also who she is. You can feel how hard Davis tries to stay sober, how hard he fights his thoughts and find ways to focus on what truly matters to distract himself from ever wanting to take the pills again.
It’s been a while since I read a book that truly stirs my emotions and Brave Enough did just that. I couldn’t help but to root for Cason and Davis, for Cason to get through her cancer, get through her confusion, and feel happy and confident again in herself. For Davis to stay sober, to erase his guilts, and not feeling like he lets everyone he loves down.
The side characters are also very fun to read about. Noah, Mari, Jase, and Heather are truly wonderful additions to the story. They bring the support that Cason and Davis need. Mari and Noah are also amputees and having them around definitely help Cason to be more comfortable and explore her options. There was a part of this book where Noah, Jase, and Davis talk about being a cancer survivor and amputee for Noah and how it defines their life. I think that part of the book gives someone like me, who never has any experience with disabilities, a perspective of how it is for them. How people treat them differently if they know their stories.
“When I was a teenager and reading every book I could get my hands on, I was desperate for a girl that looked like me. For a girl who had cancer and lived. And it was really hard to come by. So, I wrote one.”
Brave Enough is a book need to be read by everyone. It’s rare to come across books that has representations for cancer survivor, amputees, and recovering drug addict. The quote above is from the author note. I was surprised to read that Kati Gardner herself is a cancer survivor. I think that is one of the many factors on why this book is amazing. She knows how it feels and she is able to share those feelings through this character.
I would recommend everyone to read this book. I think people with disabilities, cancer, or cancer survivors who read this book will be able to relate to the struggle and the emotions these characters go through. For those who are not, this book will give you an insight to a life so many people live that we are not familiar with.
Brave Enough by Kati Gardner
Teenager Cason Martin is the youngest ballerina in the Atlanta Ballet Conservatory. She never really had a choice of whether she learned to dance or not. Her mother, the conservatory’s artistic director, has made all the decisions in Cason’s life. But that’s about to change. Cason has been hiding an injury, and it’s much worse than anyone imagines.
Davis Channing understands all too well what it’s like to give up control of your life. He’s survived cancer, but his drug addiction nearly killed him. Now he’s been sober for seven months and enjoying his community service at the hospital. But just when he thinks he’s got it together, Davis’s ex-girlfriend, who is still battling her addiction, barrels back into his life.
Cason and Davis are not friends. But, as their worlds collide, they will start to depend on one another. Can they both be brave enough to beat the odds?