Updated: May 3, 2018
Brave Enough releases on August 21, 2018.
"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?" - Goodreads
Realistic Fiction, Romance
cancer, addiction, love, single parenting, mother/daughter relationships, friendship, recovery, self-image
WHAT I LIKED
Because I was reading this prior to its release date, I think I had a different mindset diving in. Reading something before everyone else does, before it can even be in my hands, had a different feel. It was my first ARC, and it was exciting.
The characters are pretty likable. I was rooting for both main characters to overcome their struggles and come out on top. I even wanted their romance to work, even though I believe they jumped in too quickly. Their connection was quick; I know teenagers react fast, but their journey getting to know one another could have been developed more.
A cancer story is important, and a teenage cancer story is that much more heartbreaking and scary. As a mom, it was terrifying to think about the need for children's hospitals, oncologists, and cancer camps for kids. In the author's notes, at the end of the book, she mentions wanting to write this story so she could see a character like herself, a cancer patient and amputee, in writing. While this is not a work of nonfiction, it is certainly influenced by Gardner's experiences as a survivor.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE
I don't think the main characters' ages are believable. Maybe I am too naive, but a high school junior who has already battled a narcotics addiction, been in jail, and has now been sober for nearly a year thanks to (sometimes) daily NA meetings, doesn't seem real to me. I would have preferred him to be in college, even if it meant dating someone a year younger than him. However, I do believe Cason could have been a year older as well. I can't pretend to know anything about the ballet world, but a professional dancer who only attends school half a day at the age of 16? I don't know about that.
Cason is super cute name, but I read it as "Carson" every.single.time. Kudos though, it's a good name.
(Spoiler) Some details weren't developed as much as they should have been. We get this mention of the glitter incident so many times, but it's never really explained, whereas camp is mentioned constantly throughout the book and its part is so minimal. It's described as this life-changing event, but only a few specific incidences have depth and detail. Gimme more.
Overall, this is a cute book for teens. There are some good life lessons in there, especially about taking care of yourself, self-image and recovery. The love story is cute, and cancer stories are emotional.