Latest Read: Zac & Mia by A.J. Betts

Zac & Mia by A.J. Betts
Publication date: Sept. 2, 2014
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Category: Young Adult - Contemporary
Source: Received ARC at BEA
Summary: "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. (Adapted

The good
Zac & Mia alternates between two patients who are next door neighbors in a cancer ward and unexpectedly form an unconventional friendship. We meet Zac first and I don't doubt that anyone who decides to pick up this book will root for his character immediately. There's an earnestness and positivity to his character that reeled me in from the first few pages. And to be honest, it was his chapters alone that kept me reading even when I was tempted to stop.

Zac has undergone a transplant and while he comes from a supportive family, it's his mom who volunteered to spend every day, all day in the hospital with him until he gets discharged. I really loved their relationship but like any other teenager, no one wants to be stuck with their mother 24/7. Then Mia moves in next door. And from the moment she arrives, she's yelling, fighting and blasting her music. This is a person who hasn't fully accepted what's happening to her and lashing out at her single mom. Before ever seeing her, Zac is already intrigued and reaches out in small ways - a knock on the wall they share, a written note sent to her, Facebook chats. At first Mia doesn't reciprocate much and we don't get chapters in her POV right away so it was hard to gauge who she was. But then she slowly starts to reach out to Zac as someone who understands and right when it seems like they might have a real face-to-face connection, both Zac and Mia are headed home and going their separate ways (obviously that's not the end of it!).

But even in that tiny glimpse during their stay in the hospital, you do learn about how different Zac and Mia are. Zac isn't in denial about his situation. Google is his friend and the boy knows all sorts of statistics and probabilities of cancer. He knows what his odds are and even what Mia's are and he doesn't hesitate to tell her that she's lucky compared to the rest of the patients in the ward.

(Major) Reservations
As I mentioned, I thought Zac was the only good thing about the book. I couldn't warm up to Mia no matter how much I tried and I didn't feel invested in their relationship. I didn't mind the little ways in which their friendship started but nothing really happened or was said to make me feel like there was a deeper connection. Mia was just extremely shut off and it felt like she only turned to Zac as a last resort because he was willing to be there for her. And when things do somewhat come together in a surprising way towards the end, it was rushed. I like to see the relationship develop throughout the book and not be expected to just believe they're meant to be because of a neatly tied epilogue.

Do I recommend?
I might be the minority here but I wasn't a big fan of the book overall. I really wanted to like it but it's hard to pull off a dual-POV book when only one character is developed.

Happy reading!

1 comment

  1. Right off the bat, I liked Zac! His character was also the main thing about Zac and Mia that appealed to me, and it remained that way all the way up until the end. I'd like to think I'd have the same response as he did to his situation! Mia was harder for me to like, even though I warmed to her a teensy bit by the end. But overall, the novel winded up being just okay for me.


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