“Brave Enough” by Kati Gardner

As a kid, I had a thing for Lurlene McDaniel books. Do you remember them? Girl gets terrible disease, girl falls in love with boy, girl usually dies, tragedy and heartbreak abound. That was the definite, general theme. And I got them out of my elementary school library every chance kind Mrs. Wisinski would let me. Then my sister honed in on my book love and suddenly loved them even more. Which was both annoying and fine, because they were basically the only things she read by choice until Harry Potter happened and I have book love for all the books.

I digress.

Kati Gardner’s Brave Enough is like Lurlene McDaniel’s books, and I wonder if Gardner read them too. Not they’re copies or too similar and not unique. Brave Enough is rather fantastic all on it’s own.

It starts with what is typical for contemporary YA novels – a talented girl has dreams beyond the place where her life currently is, a boy is a little damaged and trying hard to be good, the girl meets the boy, the girl is determined not to like the boy…

There are things in the story that sometimes seem a little extreme, a little forced. Cason, the talented ballerina with dreams of dancing in New York City, gets a very extreme cancer and Davis, the damaged boy who dealt and took a lot of drugs after surviving cancer, are a little, I apologize for using the word again, extreme. But these things happen.

Also, I have never been addicted to drugs nor have I dealt them. I have not survived cancer and I don’t know anyone who was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma as Cason is. Those things being said, I have to let Gardner be my guide on what is right and appropriate for Cason and Davis. Even when things get a bit repetitive, I trust in Gardner that the struggle she describes is real.

Cason’s mother, Natalie, undergoes the most profound evolution in the story, She goes from being the micromanager of the Atlanta Ballet Company and a ‘momager’ who would give Kris Jenner a run for her money to someone who learns that she is a mother first and that no mother can endure the burden of a sick child alone.

While Cason and Davis, with their budding and inevitable romance, are fine, it really is the cast of supporting characters that make Brave Enough work. Heather, Dr. Henderson, Mari, Jase, Noah, eventually Natalie… they come together to make sure that Cason and Davis have the support system they need to survive and endure. Maybe that’s the most important lesson to take away from the book – be brave enough to both rely on your friends and to let your friends rely on you. It’s the only way we might get from this day to the next.

(I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest and original review. All thoughts are my own.)

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