Title: Brave Enough
Author: Kati Gardner
Age Range: Young Adult
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
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?
Content Warnings: Terminal illness, drug addiction, violence
Man, I hate John Green.
That’s a weird way to start a review, but bear with me.
I first came across him when I picked up The Fault in Our Stars, and I hated it so much I never read another John Green book again. It was cheap, gimmicky, and pretentious as hell, and I honestly felt like John Green was using the whole cancer aspect of the story to give it a profoundness the story didn’t have – or deserved.
So essentially, put down The Fault in Our Stars and pick this up instead.
Cason Martin is a dancer. That’s who she is, who she’s been groomed to be. So understandably her world comes crashing down around her when she’s told that she has a form of bone cancer which necessitates an amputation. Suddenly, she has no idea who she is anymore. Who is she if she can’t dance? The journey she takes to rediscover herself, and reclaim her passion as an athlete and a dancer, takes her to unexpected places – including a better relationship with her controlling, overbearing mother; lots of new friends, fellow cancer patients who understand what she’s going through; and a friendship – and maybe something more – with cancer survivor and recovering drug addict Davis Channing, who is battling demons of his own. While Cason takes her first steps on the long road to becoming a dancer again, Davis is on his own path to seize the reins of his life away from the addiction that almost cost him everything.
What can I say about this book that would encapsulate everything I felt about it? I don’t know, but I’m going to try. This book deserves more than a token effort from me, a very small book blogger – because it was well past amazing. When I finished reading, I had to sit in silence on my bed for a moment and just process everything I was feeling. It was a beautiful story, and I thank all the eldritch gods of writing that Kati shared this with the world. This is, simply put, as tory that needs to be told, and one I’m sure that hundreds of teenagers around the world – cancer survivors, amputees, recovering drug addicts – can relate to. It’s representation that is sorely needed, and it was done wonderfully.
The reality of being disabled is shown with absolutely no sugarcoating through the experiences of Cason and her fellow amputees. The stares. The murmurs. Refusal to acknowledge that not all disabilities are visible. The intersectionality of being disabled and being a person of color. Person-first language, but also the importance of stepping back and minding your own business if a disabled person decides that they want to call themselves an ‘amputee’ rather than a ‘person with an amputation’. It’s stark; it’s raw; it’s undeniable in a society that treats them like they’re invisible.
With such a strong focus on Cason, I was afraid that Davis’s voice would be drowned out. Not so. You feel, absolutely distinctly, every single moment of his struggles. You see and experience with him that little voice in his head demanding just one more hit. You see him struggle through that, you see him make mistakes and stumble along the way, and yet come out on top sober because he remembers what he’s staying sober for. Davis’s journey to beat his addiction is just as well written as Cason’s and is a stark reminder to everyone that addiction is a disease, and that a little empathy goes a long way. (A reminder that the bloodthirsty citizens of my country in favor of our president’s power-hungry “drug war” should remember, I think.)
This book is a testimony. It’s a shout into the void from people society doesn’t listen to. We’re here. We exist. It’s a book that really just needs to be read.