Welcome to the comments and discussion of the Young Adult Cancer Book Club! We are reading Finding Balance by Kati Gardner! Read our participants’ reactions and follow along with us each week as we read through the book! Caution, spoilers below!
Catch up from last week here!
Week 1: Prologue – Chapter 5
By Melissa B:
After reading this you can definitely feel the chemistry between Jase and Mari. There is something special about their relationship. Jase is so caring and concerned for Mari’s well-being when she is injured at camp. Mari is definitely falling for him.
Mari gets injured at school after getting knocked down in the hallway after an altercation with other students. Poor girl is in the wrong place at the wrong time. She hits her head, it seems like she has a concussion but she blows it off. Then, falls again later in the day, in the cafeteria. I do understand where the school is coming from for her safety. I also can see Mari’s side. She has been through so much already, using a wheelchair is taking away some of her independence, strive to fit in, and be somewhat like the other students. It seems like she has tried a prosthetic in the past but it did not work.
Mari enrolls in the same school as Jase. They have one class together and he totally blows her off. So rude, I’m not really liking Jase right now. He is such a jerk. Poor Mari, high school is hard enough, and going to a new school with a disability makes it that much harder. I’m sure when she saw Jase, she felt this comfort. When he did not even acknowledge her, her heart must have broken. Jase is so worried about himself and he doesn’t want Mari to blow his cover about his previous cancer diagnosis. I get it. I feel like people treat you differently when they know you have been diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening illness.
Jase sees Mari at the bus stop and tried to apologize but she is not having it. I’m glad she ignored him, put him right back in his place. Mari’s family is waiting to see how her first day went, of course, she avoids the whole Jase story.
Jase and Mari are texting back and forth and he does not want her to tell anyone how they know each other or anything about his cancer diagnosis. Mari is a good friend and agrees not to say anything to anyone at school. She sits down with mom and discusses possibly looking into a prosthetic leg again because this time maybe they have something that will work for her. I feel like if Mari is ready for it, she should give it a chance. I also feel that she has to face her cancer diagnosis every day, whereas Jase, his diagnosis was so long ago. He doesn’t really remember it and he can go about leading a “normal” life because he doesn’t have that daily constant reminder (missing a limb, using crutches).
I think Jase feels really bad for the way he treated Mari. Other students are noticing her hanging out with her and one of Jase’s friends is even interested in her. I feel like Jase is starting to get jealous of her. He attempts to speak to her after class and she just ignores him. I don’t blame her.
By Ashley L:
This book details two distinct ways of handling telling others about a cancer diagnosis. Mari’s cancer situation is abundantly more visible than Jase’s. Mari’s leg amputation is an automatic symbol that something was wrong. Meanwhile, Jase can conceal his diagnosis because he does not have any outwardly apparent physical symptoms or side effects.I feel terrible for Mari because of the discriminatory language spoken both to her and about her, throughout the chapters. In chapter one, the assistant principal gives Mari an ultimatum to either buy a prosthetic leg or use a wheelchair in order to stay in that school. She said, “But Mari, you could look like everyone else…” She’s trying to convey that it’s for Mari’s safety when it is clearly a move to prevent the school from being sued. Also, by saying that statement, she’s implying that Mari is somehow less-than. In chapter two, we encounter many ignorant comments from Lindsay. “’God, why doesn’t she wear a robot leg?’ Disgust dripped from Lindsay’s voice. ‘It’s just gross to be out there like that.’” She also says “God, her life must be awful.” It’s so sad to see Mari doubt herself when she considers getting a prosthetic leg in chapter 5. Also, it’s depressing to know that society’s view of beauty and normalcy is exclusive. It’s like saying, if you don’t fit into these specifications, you are not a person.I also feel bad for Jase. He sees the way people stare at Mari and he hears the awful comments about cancer from the ones around him. In chapter two, Lindsay says “But aren’t you afraid of catching it…I’d be nervous the whole time,” after he did his presentation on volunteering at a hospital. Then in chapter four, when Jase was speaking with Lucas, “ ‘Did you hear she had cancer.’ Lucas said ‘cancer’ like it was the plague.’ ” I can understand Jase’s hesitancy in telling others about his cancer diagnosis, he doesn’t want to be seen differently by his peers. Plus, he doesn’t even remember having it because he was so young. However, it does not excuse his cruel behavior towards Mari when she initially came up to him on her first day in that school. He should have handled it differently.
By Rachel C:
The book starts out talking about Mari Manos and Jase Ellison at Camp Chemo, a camp for individuals who have had cancer. Mari, an amputee because of her cancer, and Jase, who has leukemia when he was 3 and doesn’t remember it, spend the summer at camp in a “flirtationship”.
After summer is over, they both head back to their separate lives. I gather that Mari returns to a middle-class family and public school and Jase to a more wealthy family and an expensive private school.
Back at school, Mari, having only one leg and walking with crutches, falls twice in one day. The first time due to a fight that broke out in the hallway which banged into her and the second because she slipped on a grape in the lunchroom. The school calls in her parents and feels it’s not “safe” for Mari to be in the school and recommends either a wheelchair or a prosthesis, neither of which she wants nor has the school even considered the cost of a wheelchair or prosthesis and how it will impact the family’s finances.
Mari didn’t like her ultimatum of getting a wheelchair or prosthesis, so she leaves the school. She receives a scholarship to go to the same private school that Jase goes to. People in the school pity her, saying how awful it must be that she had cancer. On her first day there, she walks up to him to say hi, and he pretends like he doesn’t know her. She is heartbroken. Jase texts her and begs her not to tell anyone that he had cancer and that no one in the school knows.
This book covers a lot of emotions and familiar feelings. This part of the story speaks to the “privilege” (I don’t know if that’s the right word??) that some cancer survivors have. Some of us don’t have visible scars, baldness, or missing a limb or we are further out from our diagnosis/treatment, so if we don’t want to talk about it, we don’t have to. But others, their scars with cancer are much more visible and they can’t avoid talking about it because people will always ask. Cancer survivorship looks different in everyone. Cancer, regardless of what kind and at what age, complicates your life!
By Alyssa G:
In the prologue, we meet Mari. Mari is an amputee and it begins at Camp Chemo. There we also meet Jase who is her crush. They are in the pool area and it’s slick because the surface is tile. Mari falls and scrapes her knee and she jokingly says that she is falling for Jase. I thought this was funny because I will often say oh no I hope I don’t fall if I ever fall physically or have a crush on someone. They then almost kiss until they are interrupted by the leader of the camp Margaret.
Mari is now at school. We see her at her locker exchanging books carefully, when a fight rolls down the hall and the boys fighting knock her over. Like everything else though, she gets up and keeps moving. She talks about how annoying it can be to be everyone’s “inspiration,” and I have been feeling that lately. One of my college professors and even one of the felllows at the doctor’s office made comments about how strong I am to come to school feeling how I do and inspirational my hard work is. I don’t really have a choice though, so I just power through trying to live my life. Then it transitions to lunch and Mari slips and falls again caused by a grape. She is then called into the principal’s office and they tell her she needs to start using a prosthetic leg or wheelchair for the safety of other. Her mom and dad are not having it with that and tell the principal they are taking Mari out of that school.
Chapter 2 is written from Jase’s point of view. We see him giving a speech about volunteer work he did over the summer. He volunteered at the children’s hospital with Melissa, the child life specialist, to make bags to keep the kids busy during chemo. We find out though that no one knows Jase is a cancer survivor. He wants to keep it that way, but it could be ruined because Mari now goes to school there too. Jase tries to ignore her and his feelings for her, but they all bubble up and he can’t take it. He doesn’t want the past to come back but he doesn’t want to lose a relationship with Mari. It’s hard going to school especially somewhere new and trying to keep the fact that you had cancer a secret. Going to college now I’m still trying to figure it out. It’s hard because you don’t want to be treated differently or get questioned about it.
Chapter 3 is back from Mari’s viewpoint. Jase tries to talk to her at the bus stop, but Mari ignores him. She doesn’t want to deal with him after he ignored her in chemistry class. She then gets home and realizes everyone is at home and waiting to hear about how her first day went at the new school. But, before she gets in the house there is a brochure for a prosthetic company for her in the mail. This infuriates Mari and reminds her that she couldn’t go to her old school anymore because they were requiring her to do something she refused. In the end, we also see that Jase has finally texted her and said that they need to talk. It just infuriates me with the school requiring Mari to change her 504.
Mari reads the message from Jase and can’t believe that no one knows he had cancer. Mari doesn’t really want to hear from Jase now if she has to hide her feelings for him and their friendship so he can keep living without people knowing the truth about him. Then Mari has a conversation with her mom about possibly getting a prosthetic, it’s it is different from the last one she had. Maybe she wants a prosthetic now to try to fit in? I don’t blame her it’s hard to fit in when you are all puffy from steroids and have short hair, let alone only one leg.
Jase is in Chem and can’t get Mari out of his mind. Mari is still ignoring him, thus keeping his secret. However, a guy named Lucas now is thinking about asking Mari out. The whole cancer aspect does freak Lucas out a bit though as it does for most normal people. I think Jase and Mari need to stop being petty and talk to each other privately since they both have feelings for each other. If not, then there will never be a resolve.
Join in next Monday for the comments and discussion on chapters 6-11!
We will talk about a few chapters each Monday until the book is done. If Monday happens to be a holiday, then the post will publish on Tuesday. Once we finish the book, we’ll use one more Monday to talk about general feelings from the book and anything else you’d like to discuss. We’ll also have a video chat book club discussion at the end! Join in, in the comments every week! Also, there will probably be spoilers so read along with us! Excited about the young adult cancer book club? Have any suggestions for future reads? Let us know!