Cover Image: Finding Balance

Finding Balance

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Member Reviews

Thank you netgalley for a chance to read this.  This hit close to home as I know many loved ones who have been affected by cancer. This was a beautifully written story & I look forward to reading more from this author.
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This #ownvoices novel brings to light the subtle ableism that premeates in society today. It talked a little about the expenses needed when facing a chronic condition. Honestly, the book doesn't necessarily focus on the romance between Mari and Jason (Jase). There was a lot of that in there, don't get me wrong but it wasn't the main subject of Finding Balance. It was about living with a disability. It's about the simple challenges that people with a disability and cancer face. It really opened my eyes. It made me much more sensitive to these issues. In the middle of this awakening movement that the world and mainly USA is going through. This is definitely a book to read.
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Thank you to Flux Books for sending me an ARC via netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 
4/5 stars. 
I want to start off this review by saying that I have never experienced anything like what Mari and Jason have had to go through. I do not have the same experiences as these characters, and I would ask that people try to prioritize Own Voices reviews over my own. 
Mari Manos is a cancer survivor. This is something that is a big part of her life, particularly because of her amputation. Not only is Mari a cancer survivor, but she is a disabled person. Mari possesses so much strength, and I really admired the character and the way that she lived her life the way she wanted to. Mari doesn’t want to use a prosthetic because it’s uncomfortable, but situations and people keep pushing her towards feeling like it’s something she has to do. This was a totally new perspective to me, and I found it really interesting. I got so annoyed and angry on Mari’s behalf while reading this because of the comments that people made and the way that she was treated. 
Jason Ellison is a cancer survivor, but none of his friends at school know. Jase had cancer when he was a young kid, and he barely remembers it himself. When Mari shows up at Jase’s school, Jase reacts pretty badly. Mari and Jase go to Camp Chemo together in the summers, and Jase doesn’t want his friends to know that he and Mari know each other. While trying to figure out a balance to both sides of his life, Jase has to come to terms with something he doesn’t really remember, but that might come back to remind him. 
This is a contemporary YA book, and so the plot feels like it’s on the lower-energy side but I still found it to be really interesting. A pretty character-driven story, the relationships between the characters, and the interactions were what was furthering the story. I really enjoyed the romance between Mari and Jase, and I liked the back-and-forth nature (even though it was so frustrating!) because it felt realistic for the characters and the situations. 
Overall, I really enjoyed this one, and I think everyone should check it out because it highlights a disabled perspective in a way that I haven’t seen often in the wider umbrella of YA. 
Content warnings: sick kids (we’re talking about cancer survivors here. There will be mention of others, and of various treatments that they went through), mentions of drug abuse. 

**Check out my review on my bookstagram page (Alli_the_bookaholic13) TOMORROW [September 30} :)
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Happy Book Birthday to this adorable YA Contemporary! 

Mari is a cancer survivor and when she refuses to get a prosthetic leg to help her improve her mobility she is forced to enroll at a new school. As she begins adjusting to the new school and all the rumors circulating about what happened to her leg she finds herself avoiding Jace, the boy from Chemo Camp she's had a crush on. Mari doesn't let her disability define her. She makes every effort to do things for herself with little help from others. There are some girls in this new school that bully her a little which was disheartening but you quickly realize that it is more due to their ignorance of Mari's disability. Despite all the rumors around her she takes the time to educate her fellow students about how childhood cancer affected her and her family. 

Jace hasn't told anyone about having cancer when he was three years old. He doesn't remember it so why should everyone know about his previous diagnosis? It isn't until Mari, the girl from Chemo Camp, shows up at his school one day does he realize his secret may  not be a secret for long. Jace doesn't want people to define him as the boy who survived cancer so he keeps it a secret. Seeing Mari unafraid of what others think of her starts to make him realize that maybe not everyone would judge him for having been sick when he was younger. 

The hate to love, secret dating, relationship between Mari and Jace was really good in this one! Both of them deal with their diagnosis and remissions in different ways. Mari isn't afraid to talk about her experiences while Jace tries his best to keep his a secret. Both are trying to find their balance.

I really enjoyed this fast paced YA Contemporary Romance & definitely recommend it to lovers of YA Contemporary! I will definitely be picking up Brave Enough because this one was so much fun!
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Mari Manos has been forced into a new school. At her old school, she was told not to use crutches anymore, that a prosthetic or a wheelchair was safer. However, a prosthetic would be uncomfortable for her, and a wheelchair would only get her more grief from her classmates. Mari already survived bone cancer and lost a leg because of it, so why should she be forced to give up the freedom that crutches give her? After enrolling in her new private school, she is excited to see somebody she knows from Camp Chemo, Jase Ellison. Unfortunately, Jase pretends he doesn't know her, because even though he survived leukemia as a toddler, he doesn't want anybody to know he's a cancer survivor. Mari wishes she could hide her history with cancer too, but with all the mean things her classmates are saying, and Jase wanting nothing to do with her, how can she find a normal life that doesn't revolve around her past with cancer?

Right off the bat, I want to say that I think Finding Balance is a very personal work for the author, Kati Gardner, because both Mari and Kati are survivors of cancer who lost a leg in their fight with it. I imagine that many of Mari's struggles and internal thoughts in this story carry at least some similarities to Kati's own real-life struggles in the aftermath of surviving cancer, and understanding these facts helped Finding Balance to resonate more strongly with me than it might have otherwise. I found much of the story to be sad, in the sense that children can be so cruel, and fear is such an awful motivating force for cruelty. I did like that Jase's actions, while mean at first, did have a reason behind them that related to a bad experience of his in the past. Mari is a really great character who just wants to be normal and accepted, even with all that has happened to her, and her internal dialogue and interactions with family members was a highlight for me. Jase and Mari do start to find some balance (see what I did there?) between them as they acclimate to both of them being at the same school, and I liked seeing that happen. Kati Gardner has created a personal, powerful work that I really appreciated for its unique perspective and internal insights, and I'd love to read more books like it. Finding Balance is an important book about perception, fear, the impact of medical trauma on the mind and body, and moving beyond that to a life that balances the bad that happened in the past with the good that is possible now, even if others try to assign their own feelings and expectations to your experience. Highly recommended.
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I wanted to write my review properly because when I first downloaded my file was broken so I couldn't review it. But since then I tried to download again and the file was fixed but I forgot to change my review. So here it is. It is a bit late but it is here :)
I loved the first book in this series. Cancer is a really strong word for me and I tried to avoid all the time but I really enjoyed the first one and this second book was really good too. The story deals with their struggles in this world as a cancer survivor. I loved the cameos from Brave Enough. This book was perfect as a standalone but I highly recommend reading both of Kati Gardner's first novel too.
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Both Jase Ellison and Mari Manos are cancer survivors, but approach their current lives very differently. Jase hides the fact that he was sick when was younger, but as an amputee, Mari can't hide her past. When their paths cross outside of Camp Chemo, both Jase and Mari have to face their fears, their truths, and their feelings for one another. 

What I liked: this story was incredibly educational, and I appreciated Mari as a MC. She felt real, and normal. I think sometimes we read books with a female lead that seem so unattainable in real life, but Mari was a breath of fresh air. 

What I didn't love: sometimes the story got bogged down with technical details. I appreciated the clear view into the struggles of childhood cancer, but sometimes I got lost in the details. 

I think this book is clearly written for young adults - it felt a little too young for me (as a grown adult).
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In Kati Gardner's sophomore novel, Finding Balance, our main character, Mari Manos, is a cancer survivor amputee, but she does her best to not let it get in her way. Choosing to move about with crutches instead of a wheelchair or prosthesis, Mari's been doing fine. That is, until the day the fight happens.

Her parents get called in and the principal at her schools tells the Manoses that Mari's choice is a liability - causing her to fall TWICE that very day, and she can either use a wheelchair or a prosthetic, but those are her only choices. Her parents immediately remove her from the school instead.

Now, Mari is going to a fancy prep school on scholarship, and one of the familiar faces she sees on her first day is Jase Ellison - her almost-kiss from Camp Chemo that summer! But Jase pretends he doesn't know her - because he's never told his friends that he had leukemia as a child.

This book really looks at different perspectives of childhood cancer. Mari, with her amputation, can't exactly hide hers, while Jase keeps his swept under the carpet. The challenges Jase and Mari face are different and in trying to deal with each other, they clash often even as their feelings for each other grow. The characters are wonderful and the plot interesting. It's a great read and I am going to go back and read Gardner's debut, Brave Enough, which features characters also included in Finding Balance, but you don't have to be familiar with book one to read book two - it works well as a standalone.
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Finding Balance by Kati Gardner is the 2nd book in the Brave Enough series.  I really enjoyed this book, I learned a lot about childhood cancer.  Two teenagers have know each other since they met at Camp Chemo years ago.  Jase doesn't remember having cancer, and Mari has a daily reminder since she lost her leg to cancer.  When Mari transfers to private school where Jase goes, he pretends he doesn't know her.  As these two teenagers go through all the emotions of surviving and dealing with their cancer, this book really sucked me in.  I highly recommend this wonderful young adult romance, and looking forward to reading other books by this author. 
I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
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Finding Balance is a gorgeous masterpiece written about the struggles of day-to-day life for those who have cancer, who've had cancer, and who have to live with it as a disability for the rest of their lives. Mari and Jase, the main characters, both go through entirely different struggles throughout the book and try to maintain a relationship but hit some wicked curves along the way.
This book can totally be read as a stand-alone but the first book Brave Enough was fantastic! These books are written beautifully and are my two absolute favorite contemporaries to date.
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TW: ableism, car crash, hospitals

First of all, can we all appreciate that cover? I can't think of the last time I saw a cover that had an image of a person with a disability. Ok, now into the proper review. This book follows two teenagers who survived cancer. Jase was a toddler when he recovered from cancer and only thinks about cancer when he goes for medical check-ups and the summer camp that is specifically for kids who have/had cancer. Mari had cancer later in her life and the effects of her cancer are more obvious as she had most of one of her legs amputated. Usually they only interact in the summer, but because of ableism from her high school, Mari switches schools and just so happens to go to school with Jase. And that’s when my problems with the book come in. I'm going to cover what I didn't like about the book first and then end on a good note with what I enjoyed. Unfortunately, my main problem was with one of the point's of view, Jase. He is a near irredeemable asshole. Despite the fact that he and Mari have something like a summer fling going, in school he ignores her, because he doesn't want to be associated with someone who visibly went through cancer while he can hide the fact that he is a survivor. And, okay, teenagers can be bad people in order to maintain social standing, but this lasted for far too long for me to root for their relationship. He doesn’t apologize until halfway into the book and before that, he keeps pushing her to accept his lame attempts at being friendly because, again, he hasn’t apologized for ignoring her. Not only did he ignore her, but he let some grossly ableist things slide from his friends. (This paragraph will have spoilers for why Jase is acting like an asshole, but I kind of have to talk about it. Skip this paragrpah to get to the non-spoilery stuff.) Jase doesn’t want anyone to know he had cancer because he was bullied in middle school for it. So, while I’ve never heard of a kid getting bullied for having cancer, I get that middle schoolers are the absolute worst and some are probably terrible enough to have said that type of stuff. However, I just didn’t empathize with him because I was rooting for Mari way more. She’s currently going through ableism and despite knowing what being bullied for cancer-related reasons can feel like, what does he do? Basically nothing for half the book!!!!

One comment on a side character that isn't necessarily positive or negative Lindsay. She is everything bad about white, rich, abled people in one person and I’m not saying that the ableist crap she spewed was unbelievable, but to have her be the only person saying ableist things was just a bit too much. The whole school is full of rich abled people, I feel the author could’ve had the ableism coming from multiple people.

Now, I really liked Mari's stories. Her plot lines, besides her romance with Jase, is about her dealing with grossest ableism from classmates and ableism from both the high school she was enrolled in and the one that Jase is currently attending. She’s dealing with the inner turmoil of her comfort versus society's comfort and whether that means she should try using a prosthetic leg. She’s also dealing with how ableism affects her ability to succeed in school.

But also her character isn't completely focused on her disability. Like I said, she does have a romance with Jase that was kind of good near the end. She also has a job at a bookstore and a supportive family. Basically, Mari was my favorite in this book.

I rated this book three stars. I would have rated it lower, but that didn't feel entirely fair, as I did really like Mari's stuff and later on in the book, I was kind of rooting for the relationship. However, all of my problems were with Jase and how Mari reacted to him. I understand they are friends at camp, but it took far too long for him to apologize for what he’d done wrong and for the romance to start for me to be as invested as I'm sure the author wanted me to be.

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Thank you to Netgalley and Flux Books for my eARC of Kati Gardner's 'Finding Balance'.

I was initially drawn to the book because when I was in school my close friend passed from Leukemia. I have also had family members these last couple of years fighting forms of Cancer and I welcomed any book that might give a perspective about this cruel disease that would help my children. 

Finding Balance was everything I could have hoped for in a book that deals with topics that are often not in the forefront of any novels never mind those for a younger audience. I had moments of laughter, and moments were I cried; the emotional rollercoaster had me at every turn and I know without doubt I would and will read this tale again along with the first book by Kati Gardner.

It is an insightful read both during both the good moments and the bad and it was apparent that this story truly mattered to the author and that it was a true labour of love. The scenes at 'Camp Chemo' were wonderful and showed how anyone can feel more 'themselves' when surrounded by others who truly understand what they have gone through. I think all too often, childhood Cancer is shown about the fragility of the sufferer and not so much the survivor who simply wants to be who they are or where before they got sick. I couldn't help but laugh at how our two main protagonists were your typical teenagers who had crushes on one another - especially  how Jase doesn't even register the fact Mari is an amputee, she is just his friend and her only have one leg doesn't affect how he sees her. I confess that there were smiles and tears as it is abundantly clear that to him, she is still so beautiful to him - as it should be. 

Although Finding Balance's main characters are both Cancer survivors I liked how there was so much more to the story than just that. You saw how people judge others all too often by how someone looks than rather who they are; something we are all often guilty of doing. 

It was interesting seeing Mari's battle in regards to whether she should have another prosthetic leg or be as she is when we meet her using her hot pink crutches and having her old prosthetic as a 'very expensive doorstop'. Her refusal to essentially make others more comfortable with her disability by going through the painful process to be fitted for a leg had me cheering her on. She is only sixteen but a true warrior and very comfortable with who she is and what she needs to make her life better. I found myself wanting to hug this fictional girl and cheer her on as she acknowledges how she is so much more than a leg that hasn't been there longer than it was. Her vulnerabilities are obviously still there but she fights through them and is an excellent role model for anyone who finds themselves in that situation.

I felt for Jase whose demons linger in the back of his mind and make him reticent to be truthful to his friends. His determination to keep the two parts of his life separate from one another is a hard thing to do but also a very human thing when we're afraid. His Cancer doesn't so much haunt him but the cruelty of children who don't fully understand, (thinking it is contagious for example). However, he does deserve everything he gets when he treats Mari the way he does and I can guarantee you will feel the same.

I am wary of ruining the story with too many spoilers, but I will say that if you want an emotional insightful and wonderful story of love, of life and the fragility of being human? Finding Balance is a must for your to be read pile. I am eager to read more from Kati Gardner.
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—Thank you to Flux Books and Kati Gardner for the ARC!—

“You said something one time: that you were in control of your story. It stuck. This way, I’m in control of mine.”

If there’s one thing this story is about, it’s about adapting and being able to be in control of how life treats you. Neither Mari Manos or Jase Ellison have had easy lives by any definition. Throughout the book, we see Mari transition into a new school because her previous one did not accommodate to her as she and her family expected. She now attends Atlanta West Prep, the same school as her Camp Chemo crush, Jase Ellison. It’s a difficult transition to her as everyone speaks about her one and a fraction of legs as if she’s not there. She doesn’t get the chance to explain herself because people believe that her physical appearance explains everything enough for her, that she’s a girl who had cancer. Meanwhile, Jase Ellison has had the privilege to hide away his past of leukemia after his rough time in middle school. It goes as far as Jase pretending to not know Mari, which strikes a major drift between the two of them.

Throughout the novel, we explore Mari and Jase’s pasts, families, and futures. By all means, I would not consider this to be a typical book and that is a good thing. While this may be a story that has a typical trope of “ignoring your crush/friends-to-enemies-to-lovers”, I believe it’s the characters that make the book. Author Kati Gardner writes her experience into this novel especially, as she is also a cancer survivor and amputee. Nowhere does she write that Mari or Jase are lacking because of their previous conditions or setbacks. In fact, I’d say Mari is greater than life and is much more relatable than other characters from books I’ve read. Being able to see Mari and Jase’s interactions with each other was adorable, and being able to see their interactions with their families created a sense of wholeness and authenticity.

I have not read Kati Gardner’s previous book, but “Finding Balance” works as a spinoff/sequel to her last one. This book includes characters from her first book, but this book works fine on its own. This is also the first book I’ve read from Gardner and I’m glad that I have had the opportunity to review this book in advance.

There are some setbacks, however. I wish the novel could have been more concise with the dialogue and in the same sense, more intentional with the events. Some of the events with Lindsey and her friend group seemed over the top at times, and it wasn’t enjoyable. While it’s not completely perfect, I would still recommend this story to others because it teaches you that nothing can ever be taken for granted! Congratulations to the author for another book, and I hope to see more great things from her.
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2.5 stars.

I had high hopes about this story. A teenage amputee with a history of cancer? That’s not a normal character I read about, so I was definitely excited about that.

And Mari was amazing. She maturely accepts and deals with her disability and has adjusted well to having a single leg and walking with crutches. She thrives at her yearly summer camp for cancer survivors and has made lifelong friends there. One of them is Jase.

When she transfers to Jase’s fancy and expensive high school, she thinks she’ll have a built in friend to help her adapt. But N.O.P.E. Jase…Jason at school…hasn’t told any of his classmates about his cancer and doesn’t want anyone to know that part of his history. So he claims to have never met Mari on her first day of school.

Turns out Jase is a mean girl.

And the rest of the book is basically Jase being a dick and Mari accepting his apology. Over and over. By the end I didn’t feel that Jase was truly apologetic or had learned from his mistakes. That boy needs to develop some empathy.

All my problems with this book were Jase and his mean girl friends. Mari and her family were the only bright spot.
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I received a free copy for an honest review. 

Me, who just finished this book, and don't know what to do with myself:

See, this is why I love reading books. Books can expose you to different perspectives from various people, opening your eyes to the world.

Finding Balance (a book so perfectly titled), is a book that follows our two protagonists: Jase and Mari. Mari is a cancer survivor who had to have one of her legs amputated to live. Jase, another cancer survivor, is from a wealthier background and attends a luxurious private school but also suffered his own share of trauma from his battle with cancer. The unlikely pair met at a summer camp for cancer kids, and the rest is history. The book utilized these two character's experiences and interactions to show how these strong individuals battle sickness, and the unjust judgment people like them would have to face after overcoming their own individual health obstacles. 

One of the important things I learned from this reading experience is that people like Mari are not asking for a lot, they just want to live their lives in peace. Just leave them alone. Don't go out of your way to "pity" them and get a life and not go out of your way to make life harder for them (seriously, I don't get people like this). Not to add on, there are so many instances that I can see pissing a lot of people off. I am going to make the logical assumption that many (if not all) of Mari's experiences are based on first-hand experiences from the author (since Mari's physical characteristics are based on herself), which makes it so much sadder. The fact that people would label people "diseased" and view them as some sort of disgusting creature because they are going through medical conditions that they cannot control and is not even contagious is infuriatingly ridiculous. 

Let's delve further into our center stars: Jase and Mari. I enjoyed reading through their perspectives. You know how a lot of times, the author would utilize miscommunication to create conflicts between the two protagonists to keep the story going? And just how annoying that is because we as the readers get frustrated due to the illogical nature of the situations? That did not happen here (thank god). Mari is mad at Jase because Jase lied about his situation at school and needs to pretend he has nothing to do with Mari to keep his secret. Sounds like a typical jerk, right? Well, here's the thing. Mari being upset with Jase was completely understandable, and her attempts at avoiding Jace felt very realistic, logical, and most importantly: not forced. But I also understand Jace's reasons behind what he is doing, and can sympathize with him with his own bad experiences with judgmental people. Specifically, I feel like I can relate to Jase because if I am in his situation, I would do the same thing too. 

Ultimately, I am so glad I get to read this book. Even though the topics in Finding Balance is not what I usually read, it's a very thoughtful book that I take seriously and can learn something from. So I'm very appreciative of this reading experience.
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3.5 stars
*Thanks to NetGalley and the Publisher for the eARC in exchange of a honest review*
This book follows the two individual interconnected stories of two Cancer Survivors, Mari and Jason. Mari lost one of her legs, to Bone Cancer when she was 10, and ever since then she can't hide away this part from her life. She tries to be strong when people ask questions about her leg, and demand to know her story and even when her mean peers through in nasty comments here and there. But she is blessed with a supportive and caring family members. 
Our male protagonist Jason, on the other hand doesn't remember anything about his time with cancer as he was diagnosed with Leukaemia at a tender age of three. The duo have met at Camp Chemo many times over the years, where they became close friends and a bit more. But when, Mari transfers to AWP, the same school Jason attends, Jason instantly starts behaving like a stranger, as if he never knew Mari. This doesn't goes well with Mari ofcourse, But our girl Mari, is a breath of fresh air, a strong soul, soon, she befriends with some like-minded people like Lucas, who stand by her.
While Mari cannot afford to shut away her cancer survivor story from the world because of her one leg. She hates to explain to everyone she meets, she hates when people assume they have the right to know her story. Nevertheless, she keeps on going. But Jason  has the privilege to hide away his story. So, except his family and friends from Camp Chemo, nobody knows he had Cancer. While I agree, it is completely his decision whether he wants to share his story or not. But that doesn't give him a free card to be a jerk to Mari.I  loathed everytime Jason was a jerk to Mari, though he redeemed himself towards the end, still I wasn't quite convinced. 
This was my first time reading a book with the main characters being survivors of cancer. The plot seemed unique, which is why I picked this book. I loved reading about both of the protagonists' journey with cancer. I completely agree with both of them finding it hard to explain to everyone about their story. And it doesn't ends well, when people are always demanding more and don't really care about their feelings and throw in mean comments. I hated characters like Lindsay, though it's a clichè (being mean to disabled classmates, bullying them) but people like them actually exist. I loved Mari and her family,I tried to love Jason but just couldn't. Though I admired his journey and empathised with him.
This book  felt slow paced, few of the things kept happening over and over again. This book had an unique plot I feel it could do more? But however, I enjoyed reading this. Definitely recommend it. 
Mari has leveled up to one of my favourite characters.
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Mari Manos and Jase Ellison are both cancer survivors. Mari can't hide that fact because it took one of her legs, and Jase hides his past from everyone. Both have attended Camp Chemo, a summer camp for kids fighting cancer, and love it. But when Mari transfers to Jase's school, she could bring his carefully built image down. Will they both be able to move on?     

     Finding Balance follows the separate lives of Mari and Jase as they journey to accept themselves and their pasts. It is an emotional story with realistic characters and a unique plot, and transported me into the world of Mari and Jase almost instantly.

     Mari lost her leg during her fight with bone cancer, and has struggled to move on ever since. How can she, when she looks at herself everyday, and her missing leg reminds her of all that she's lost?

     I enjoyed her story, and I really felt Mari's thoughts and feelings, from her fierce anger to her many worries. She was a relatable character, and I liked reading as she learned and grew.

     Jase, on the other hand, I did not like as much. He was inexplicably rude to Mari at the start. I could see why he wanted to hide his past from everyone, but he could be such a jerk at times. In the end, he redeemed himself to me and showed that he was a good person deep down.

     To sum it up, Finding Balance was a sweet, heartfelt read that is all about creating balance in your life, being ourselves, and moving on. The plot was well-paced, but some parts dragged on, and it was predictable, but I still loved the characters. I hope to read more from Gardner soon!

     Thanks to Flux Books and the Favourite Pages Club for sending an ARC of Finding Balance in exchange for an honest review.
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FINDING BALANCE is a YA contemporary romance that follows Mari and Jase. Mari had osteogenic sarcoma when she was 10 and had a complete amputation of a leg as a result. She was left without any residual tissue, which makes a prosthesis uncomfortable and challenging. As a result, pretty much everyone notices her disability right away and pries into her life. When her public school says that she must use a wheelchair or prosthesis instead of her crutches, Mari is shocked- what they are asking would make her life so much more difficult and is completely unfair.

Her parents find another solution, enrolling her in a private school on scholarship, where they are willing to be more accommodating. Mari is excited to see that her almost-kiss friend from Camp Chemo attends the same school, but she is shocked when he ignores her and pretends not to know her. He tells her that he doesn't want anyone to know that he ever had cancer, so he pretended not to know her. He also allows his friends to say horrible things about her- even in her hearing range. Despite all of this, Mari is understanding and willing to accept his apology. However, things may not be so simple.

I really enjoyed learning about Mari and what life can be like with a visible disability- as well as how cruel people can be and the horrible (and untrue) things they can say. The author has a similar story, and so, this book is quite educational to the reader as to this experience, and highly valuable as a read for teens.

The romance was tough to buy into, as Jase is really cruel to Mari in quite a large portion of the book. We do get context on why he has such strong fears about this (past bullying), which is helpful if you are inclined to forgive. I think Mari deserves so much better, but this is a personal opinion. I loved Mari- she felt so real. I also appreciated the conversations both characters had with their parents, that provide some learning opportunities and well-thought-out epiphanies.

As a small point, I did get confused during some of the book with regards to the characters, as there are a lot (and parents are sometimes, but not always, referred to by their first names), but this may have been because I did not read the first book in the series. About halfway through, I was having an easier time following who was who.

Overall, I think this is a great read, not for the romance, but for the strong story of Mari, her experiences and the way that people treat her. Viewing the world through her lens (and the author's) is a valuable experience.

Please note that I received an ARC from the publisher. All opinions are my own.
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I think was the first book I've read that focuses on characters who had cancer and are in remission, but whose cancer still affects their lives in a variety of ways. I feel like the cancer narrative that is told most often is about beating cancer and getting into remission and not about how an illness can continue to affect you and your loved ones, even when you're "cured." I really appreciated seeing a different side of the cancer story, especially from an author who experienced it herself. And even more than that, I appreciated the variety of experiences that the campers from Camp Chemo had - obviously Mari and Jase had different experiences that set up the conflict for the novel, but all of their friends from camp are also depicted as having unique relationships with their cancer and the effect it had on their lives. By biggest beef with the book is with Jase. He is a straight up jerk 90% of the time. And while I understand why (trauma effects everyone differently and we don't always respond to memories of that trauma in constructive or nice ways) it is still incredibly irritating. Mari, however, was an absolute gem and I adored her character. Overall, I really enjoyed this book and I'll have to look up Gardner's other writing at some point.
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Finding Balance by Kati Gardner was so sad but so good. I had never heard of the author or this book but I would definitely be willing to check them out in the future. Thanks to the publisher and to netgalley for the advanced copy!
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