Jase Ellison doesnt remember having acute lymphocytic leukemia when he was three years old. His cancer diagnosis only enters his mind twice a year. Once at his yearly checkup at the oncology clinic and one when he attends Camp Chemo in the summer. No one in his real life knows about his past, especially his friends at Atlanta West Prep. Mari Manos has never been able to hide her cancer survivorship. She wakes every morning, grabs her pink forearm clip crutches, and starts her day. Mari loves Camp Chemowhere shes developed a healthy crush on fellow camper Jase. At Camp, she knows that shell never get the look or have to explain her amputation to anyone. Jase wants to move on, to never reveal his past. But when Mari transfers to his school, he knows she could blow his cover. Thats the last thing he wants, but he also cannot ignore his attraction to her. Mari wants to be looked at like a girl, a person, and not only known for her disability. But how do you move on from cancer when the world wont let you?
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.