I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Zac and Mia by A. J. Betts
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on 2014-09-02
Genres: Adolescence, Boys & Men, Dating & Sex, Death & Dying, Diseases, Illnesses & Injuries, Family, Friendship, Girls & Women, Health & Daily Living, Love & Romance, Parents, Social Issues, Young Adult
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Winner of the 2012 Australian Text Prize “When I was little I believed in Jesus and Santa, spontaneous combustion, and the Loch Ness monster. Now I believe in science, statistics, and antibiotics.” So says seventeen-year-old Zac Meier during a long, grueling leukemia treatment in Perth, Australia. A loud blast of Lady Gaga alerts him to the presence of Mia, the angry, not-at-all-stoic cancer patient in the room next door. Once released, the two near-strangers can’t forget each other, even as they desperately try to resume normal lives. The story of their mysterious connection drives this unflinchingly tough, tender novel told in two voices.
I swear, there is something magical in the water of Australia that churns out such great young adult books in the vein of Melina Marchetta, Marcus Zusak, Cath Crowley, and many, many more authors. When Zac And Mia by AJ Betts came across my radar, I was immediately excited because it is an Aussie addition to the cancer lit genre and I was curious to see how the book would turn out. Unfortunately, I think that my expectations were too high going into Zac And Mia, as I found myself ultimately disappointed. I won’t say that Zac And Mia is a bad book, however, I could not help drawing comparisons to The Fault In Our Stars and feeling as though this book did not even stack up to Green’s powerhouse of a book. While perhaps it is unfair to compare the two books, it was something that I absolutely could not prevent myself from doing. The premises are sort of similar.
Zac And Mia by AJ Betts is about two teenagers who have cancer. Zac has relapsed and is in the hospital waiting to receive a bone marrow transplant. He’s a bit of an old pro within the oncology ward and has gotten to know some of the other residents and nurses. He has a generally good attitude and is relatively well liked. Mia has just been diagnosed with cancer. She plays Lady Gaga music super loud so as to scare her mother away. With a few knocks on the wall, Zac begins to open a line of dialogue and conversation with Mia. The two continuously bond via text messaging and facebook chats at 3 a.m., where they are able to confess their most intimate secrets and talk relatively unencumbered. The connection between Zac and Mia is tenuous and fragile, as the two are so completely different. Betts’s book is a story of teens who come together and then apart under the worst of circumstances. The story begins with chapters from Zac’s perspective, then chapters from both Zac and Mia’s alternating perspectives and ends with chapters from Mia’s point of view.
Zac comes across as the stereotypical cancer patient. He is stoic. He is appreciative of life. He has a relatively good attitude. His sense of humor is actually quite fantastic — he jokes about being German now because his marrow transplant came from someone from Germany. Actually, Mia starts calling him Helga for kicks. Anyways, Zac’s character is a genuinely nice person — but also the typical teenager as he gets annoyed with his mother’s constant presence in his hospital room. Zac spends much of the book being rather selfless, especially when it comes to Mia. Yet, he also has his moments of vulnerability and anger. He resents winning an award simply because he has cancer and not for a legitimate reason. He calls Mia out for some of her behaviors.
Mia is kind of an unlikable character. She comes into the oncology ward all attitude and walls. She fights with her mom to the point that the other nurses remark upon it. She is a very pretty girl, though which is noted several times throughout the book. Yet, Mia is angry because she’s about to lose her gorgeous hair. She’s angry because there will be scars. She hasn’t told anyone in her life aside from her mother and her boyfriend. In fact, that boyfriend who seemed so great and understanding turns out to be rather terrible and unable to handle what is happening to Mia. So, she rebels and is prickly. She’s doing her best to hide the cancer from her friends. It’s interesting because she is only friends with Zac when it seems to be convenient for her. I get that Mia is angry and this characterization of her anger is well done, but I had a hard time connecting with her. To really enjoy a book, I need to connect with it in some way and unfortunately I was unable to connect with Zac And Mia by AJ Betts.
What I will say about Zac And Mia that I found enjoyable was Zac’s family. His parents and siblings are great people. I especially loved the parts with his sister Bec. She’s pregnant and in the middle of painting her baby’s room when Mia just shows up at their farm out of the blue. Did I mention that Zac’s family runs a petting farm? Well, they do and it’s quite the plot and setting element. If you do read this book, look out for the family dynamic it is well written. In all, I did not love Zac And Mia. It did not live up to the expectations I had for it, however it is not without merit. I think that if you go in with a different set of expectations from what I had, you will enjoy it much more than I did.