Book Review: Brave Enough by Kati Gardner

Brave EnoughBrave Enough
Kati Gardner
9781635830200, Flux, paperback, Pub. Date: August 21, 2018
Ages 14+

Publisher Description: 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?

WildlyRead Shelftalker: Spoiler alert: No one with cancer dies in this story. They do play Uno, shave their head, get stabbed, make new friends, enjoy glitter, attend camp, get kissed (!), and above all else, discover they are brave enough to continue living life, and as a result maybe, just maybe, Casen Martin, teen and formerly the youngest dancer at the Atlanta Ballet Conservatory before the big C happened, believes she might dance again. A heartfelt addition to the #ourvoices canon by a debut author.

WildlyRead Thoughts: Full disclosure: I know Kati personally. I knew her before she was published, but after she got this book contract. I think that makes a difference, because I got to see how hard she worked to put this book out into the world, but I also met her after she’d already been working on this book for a while. That means I get to be excited about what projects she has coming up next, while applauding her first book baby out in the world.

This is very much a debut novel and that’s a wonderful thing in a lot of ways. It’s Kati exploring a story she’s always wanted to tell – to paraphrase her own words, a story in which the people with cancer don’t die, and the one-legged girl gets kissed. She did it! That’s exactly what this book is, and it’s such fun to read.

I really applaud Kati for not ending the story there, though. Her characters are multi-dimensional, and so this is also so much more than “just” a book about cancer. Davis is struggling with addiction issues and life in the drug trade, which you might not think immediately relates to the rest of the book, but Kati weaves it in really well. There are parents struggling for answers and to figure out how to process a child with cancer, which I think is also rare to see in a book focusing on a teenager with that illness. And there’s the “What am I going to do with the rest of my life?” question that’s addressed; particularly relevant for a teenager who had a plan, but then it’s interrupted by the big C.  Even teenagers without as detailed a plan as Casen had will relate to trying to figure that question out.

Basically, this book has a little bit of something for everyone, and so teens and adults should find something new to learn, something to relate to, and ultimately, a lot to enjoy.

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