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?
My verdict: I read this in a day and found it to be a perfect debut from Kati Gardner who has a nack for being realistic about the situation the two main characters find themselves in. Gardner at the same time writes with a sensitive and sympathetic tone suitable for young adult readers. She tends not to sugarcoat and in particular uses Davis’s struggles with addiction as a moral and a warning to her audience. On the other hand with Cason the author tries to get across that Cancer doesn’t have to be the end of the world and that through resilience you can learn new things about yourself and find new passions. I admire Gardner for not using Cason’s disabilities as inspirational porn like in most books but instead focuses on Cason’s drive and grit and her attitudes towards her illness – The author shows the ups and downs and provides a spark of hope in Mari and Jase. In one of Davises chapters where the narrative is focused on him whilst he’s out with his friends whose disabilities aren’t always visible we see the discrimination and prejudice they face from able-bodied people who are ignorant to the situation.
I loved the alternate narratives with each chapter and found we got to know the characters well, we got to see what makes them ticks, their contrasts and similarities between them. For example we see how driven Cason is and how she lacks maternal support and affection because her mother is her dance director. On the other hand we see Davis smothered with affection and support and how not wanting to let everyone down again puts enormous pressure on him.
Another contrast is that we see Cason and her mother struggle to accept her disability. Slowly with Davis’s help we see her barriers slowly break down and face what is happening to her and she slowly begins to realise there is a world outside of professional dance. With Davis we see him struggle with his urge to use again and the guilt that he carries around and how he desperately wants to better himself.
Fans of John Green will love this story about a romance blooming in adversity and the battle of two people’s wills which will ultimately make them re-evaluate what is important to them in life.
A fabulous debut exploring the impact cancer can have on a persons life as well as the strong grip of addiction even when you’re in rehabilitation. Ultimately it’s about navigating through a new world and trying to make the best of a situation. I cannot wait for book to which focuses on Mari and Jase