Finding Balance

Flux. Sept. 2020. 344p. pap. $11.99. ISBN 9781635830521.
Gr 8 Up–After spending a week together at Camp Chemo each summer for many years, Mari Manos and Jase Ellison are great friends whose serious flirtation indicates both might be interested in something more. During the school year, however, their paths don’t really cross, as they go to different schools and live in different neighborhoods. Jase, who had leukemia when he was three, is actively trying to put his cancer experience behind him; no one at his private school knows he ever had it. However, Mari’s experience with cancer is ever-present and very public: she navigates the world with one leg, following an amputation that saved her life. She can never just blend in. When Mari receives a scholarship and transfers into Jase’s school, their worlds clash and Jase is forced to deal with the fact that he, too, is defined by being a cancer survivor. In addition to providing readers with a page-turning romance, Gardner deftly introduces many other topics, e.g., issues of class, access to healthcare, and the importance of Medicaid as a social net for people with complicated medical histories.
VERDICT Cancer creates a lifetime of fallout. Gardner writes compellingly not only about the romance between these two teens, but also about the nuances in their navigation of survival. Recommended for YA collections.

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