Finding Balance | Kati Gardner
—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.