Title: Zac & Mia
Author: A.J. Betts
Genre: Realistic Fiction, Contemporary, Cancer, Romance
Publisher: Text Publishing
Publication Date: July 2013
Rating: 4.5 stars
Synopsis (from goodreads):
The last person Zac expects in the room next door is a girl like Mia, angry and feisty with questionable taste in music. In the real world, he wouldn’t—couldn’t—be friends with her. In hospital different rules apply, and what begins as a knock on the wall leads to a note—then a friendship neither of them sees coming.
You need courage to be in hospital; different courage to be back in the real world. In one of these worlds Zac needs Mia. And in the other Mia needs Zac. Or maybe they both need each other, always.
Zac and Mia is a book told by the perspectives of two very different teenagers. Zac is a seventeen year old active farm boy suffering myeloid leukaemia and now stuck in confinement after a bone marrow transplant. With only his supportive (yet at times a little overbearing) mother, nurses and the Internet for company, Zac is intrigued by the new admission to the hospital room next to his. Mia isn’t quite as okay with her diagnosis as Zac. She’s angry and in denial. Her prognosis is the best of anyone in the ward but all she can see how the cancer in her leg is taking her former life away from her.
I liked how Betts broke up this book – the first part is entirely told from Zac’s point of view, the last solely Mia, and the middle section alternating perspectives per chapter. The way it was told kept me rather anxiously reading on to make sure the characters were okay. Zac is someone I instantly enjoyed reading about. He’s smart and funny – his bone marrow’s alter ego, Helga! – but also incredibly logical. His fixation with maths and statistics showed that he knew his odds but was trying to be the one who beat them. Mia was harder to like – she’s pricky and snarky but from reading her side of things you can see that it’s just a cover for how scared she is. The relationship between them was a joy to read. They are unlikely friends but their shared experiences give them a bond that few can possibly understand. I love the interactions between them – from Mia obnoxiously blasting Lady Gaga to Zac’s knowledge of the ridiculous ways people have died. This book despite the serious nature of cancer did leave me grinning at times.
Their personal situations as well as their medical conditions contrasted nicely – Zac with the super supportive friends and family who all knew the ins and outs of what he was facing opposed to Mia who didn’t even let her friends know. Zac considered Mia to be the luckiest person on the ward but she was the one acting as if she was the only person facing a death sentence. Zac has the family who are all there for each other and there maybe teasing on the farm but when it comes down to it they would do anything for one another. Mia isn’t quite so lucky as her mother was a teenager when she had her and neither one seems to know how they should treat the other. These differences contrasted nicely and really showed off how differently people behave when facing a similar beast.
I’ve seen people compare Zac and Mia to John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars – with both books dealing with teens and cancer but for me they both told very different stories. Zac and Mia showed off the darker side – with everything from hair loss to bowel movements being discussed. I liked that Betts showed the ugly side of things as it made it all a little more realistic for me. It felt well researched from both a medical standpoint as well as the personal side of cancer.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. It’s thoughtful and heartbreaking yet sincere and at times amusing. I highly recommend it.
Thanks to Text Publishing for the review copy.
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