Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Brave Enough by Kati Gardner

Synopsis (via Goodreads): 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?

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I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

Brave Enough was both lovely and heartbreaking. It's hard to read about people, especially children, going through cancer. The loss of health, hair, and sometimes limbs makes it even more tragic and hard to fathom. No one should have to go through something like this, but it's a reality many people (and their families) face.

It was hard for me to understand Davis and his survivor's guilt after beating cancer. I would hope that people in his situation would be thankful for a second chance at life, and want to live that life to the fullest. I'm sure there are people that get depressed afterwards, and the author did a wonderful job conveying his erratic emotions, but it wasn't something I could personally comprehend. It didn't make sense to me. His actions following cancer created more problems than his cancer ever did. Addiction is a disease, and I fully agree with that statement, but I wish the author had explained why Davis chose to go that route. I didn't understand his guilt or what led to his choices, and I wanted to know his reasons.

I kept wanting to read Cason as Carson, and I'm really not sure why. I just know that it lasted the entire book and wasn't just a few mistakes at the beginning. Her life before cancer was also a mystery to me. The author mentioned she was a professional (she was a dancer), so she only had to attend school for her core classes. She went for half a day at the most, but I'm not familiar with that arrangement. I would have liked more details surrounding her school and work life, and how she was able to skip the high school experience in favor of training to be the best dancer (her mother was her dance instructor). 

Cason's mom was awful at the beginning. Her daughter was sick, but she was too stubborn to accept it. She was selfish, mean to the staff (they were just trying to help Cason adjust), oblivious to her surroundings, and unwilling to accept the truth. She should have put her own desires aside when it became clear her child really needed her. She needed her mom and not her overbearing, demanding dance instructor. She slowly started to soften about halfway through, but the change wasn't immediately clear. There wasn't really a transition between selfish mom and supportive mom. It just sort of happened. 

I think some of my biggest issues with this book were the transitions. It seemed like the characters would grow exponentially from one sentence to the next, and it felt abrupt. I wanted more details about their individual journeys, but instead felt like I was skipping crucial information about their character development. It was like a light switched on and people started acting differently, and I wanted to know what caused the revelations. More details! 

There is an insta-love vibe, but I'm not entirely sure where or how it started. They were smiling at each other and making small talk one minute, and the next he's dancing with her and trying not to kiss her. I'm not sure if they were able to connect on a deeper level due to their shared experiences, or if there was just something in the air that day. They just sort of were after awhile. Cason and Davis cared deeply for one another, but I don't think they really knew anything about their new love interest.

In the end, I think the author did a wonderful job of describing addiction and what it feels like to be an addict. Davis has been sober for almost a year, and he still struggles with his addiction. It's a choice for him every single day to not use. He has to constantly remind himself why he wants to be sober, and how using will only hurt him in the end. He can taste the high, remember the feel of it, and it's hard to block those thoughts and focus on what's right in front of him. He has a good support system, but his past is always there to knock him back a few steps. It was so sad watching him struggle with himself and the people around him.

“He wanted to claw at his mind, rake his nails down the synapses and neurons as they fired, and he begged to just forget everything in his own head.”

Kati Gardner also conveyed cancer and treatments very realistically. I believe a lot of it came from personal experience, which makes the story even more emotional and bittersweet. 

"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."

24 comments:

  1. I read it a while ago so I don't remember for the transition but I should look at my review to be posted. I know I liked it

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    1. I enjoyed the story, but I don't feel like I really got to know the characters. They existed and their stories continued, but who where they? There was never a connection for me.

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  2. It's tough when you can't connect to the characters.

    Still sounds like a powerful story.

    Karen @ For What It's Worth

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    1. I felt connected to the story, I guess. It just seemed like the characters were there and moved along with the story, but we never get a good sense of who they are as individuals. I wanted to know more about them -- their lives before cancer and addiction, their thoughts and feelings during chemo and losing things that mattered, and how they feel about the future and what's in store for them. I think this book had the potential to be really, really great. More details and smoother transitions would be my two biggest requests.

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  3. Ooh, adding to my TBR now! Thanks for the review! :)

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  4. Love that cover, doesn't sound like I'd enjoy it fully

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    1. The cover is gorgeous! I think it really fits the story, too. Everything is a mess, but there's something beautiful about it. The story was good, but there definitely could have been more. I wanted more character development and better transitions.

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  5. I love the cover. Too bad it sounds a bit unpolished.

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    1. I read a review copy, so it's entirely possible that the finished version has corrected these issues. The author could have added more content, too. :)

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  6. Combining both insta-love that doesn't make sense and not really being able to connect to the characters, makes for a really hard read. Too bad, I adore the cover for this! I would have picked it up for that alone. ;)

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    1. The characters new each other from school (sort of), and they both knew what it was like to have cancer, but that was the extent of their connection. They only knew basic, surface information about each other, and I never saw them try to learn anything more. Then they were holding hands and thinking about each other all the time. I would have understood a friendship that later blossomed into something more, but they skipped that part.

      I really just wanted more of everything. I think the author left out really important aspects of their character growth and what they were going through.

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  7. The book just became even more emotional for me knowing the author was a cancer survivor herself.

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    1. I felt the same way when I read that. I love that she wrote her own story when she couldn't find one that she could identify with. I think that's amazing! The parts of the book that talk about chemo and what it felt like... those felt so very real. I can only assume she was writing from experience.

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  8. This sounds so emotional! I like that the author explores many sides to a cancer battle, but yeah, the transitions sound too sudden.

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    1. It was almost like what I read outlined the overall story, and I was waiting on the details to be added. I wanted more explanations on surrounds and the people within the story. I also would be at the hospital one sentence and back at her house the next. I felt like I bounced from place to place, and person to person, without any warning.

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    1. So do I! I think it really fit the story, too.

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  10. Thanks for sharing! I think this would be tough for me to read because I'm a big character person.

    -Lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

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    1. I'm a big character person, too. I have to really love them (or how they're written) to enjoy the book. I don't have to like who the person is to think they've been written well. Authors that can make me sympathize with a villain -- phew. That's incredible writing!

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  11. Heartbreaking and lovely. It does sound good. Kind of the book my library would pick up

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    1. I would suggest giving it a try if they do!

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  12. That is weird with the school thing. There was a member of a Harry Potter social site I used to belong too who was signed by a NY ballet company, but they had to be sixteen and graduated from high school. She had doubled up her senior year so she could graduate early. My son went to a performing arts school and did the core curriculum thing, but all of his music classes were in the same school and weren't a job. Hmm... anyway it does sound intesting. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and the heads up. 👍✨

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    1. I have no idea how it actually works, because I have no personal experience to compare it to. I don't think anyone I went to school with was allowed to do something like that. We did have half-days our senior year if we were in the work program, but we still had to go to all of our core and extracurricular classes. We just cut out things like Independent Study and other non-essentials. Thank you for sharing what you know! I thought it was weird when it was mentioned in the book, and I wish the author has elaborated on that a little more. I'm wondering if maybe she had experience with it...

      If you decide to read this one, let me know what you think! :)

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“Stuff and nonsense. Nonsense and stuff and much of a muchness and nonsense all over again. We are all mad here, don't you know?”
― Marissa Meyer, Heartless