Sunday, April 19, 2015

Review: Zac & Mia by A.J. Betts

Title: Zac & Mia
Author: A.J. Betts
Publisher: Text Publishing
Published Date: 24 July 2013
Buy: Amazon | The Book Depository | Dymocks Australia

"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.

Winner of the 2012 Australian Text Prize.
(summary from Goodreads)

Zac & Mia is a story of friendship and survival with a sharp and fast paced narrative.

Betts offers a slightly different take on the two teenagers with cancer falling in love trend which is refreshing. The novel spans both Zac and Mia's treatment of cancer and their trying to live their lives post cancer. Two vastly different characters from dissimilar backgrounds and families they have opposing views of their illnesses and how to go back to life outside the hospital. Split into three parts, the novel alternates points of views. First Zac, then Zac and Mia, and finally Mia. The way they get to know each other through knocks on their shared hospital wall and messages through Facebook is cute and amusing. Though they never officially meet in the hospital, Mia later, struggling with life post cancer, coincidentally runs into Zac and trusts him and his family when she feels she has no one else to turn to. Zac's family is sweet and funny, and one of my favourite things about Zac & Mia. I felt for Mia's mother, mostly estranged from her daughter and appreciated their growing closer and learning to understand each other. Zac & Mia is an authentic portrayal of teens and family, as well as of the struggles to survive cancer, and it's a touching story.

But here's the thing - I seriously disliked Mia. I found her selfish and childish, with such a negative and irritating attitude. This is hard, because here's a girl with cancer and I can't stand her! I do feel for her situation, absolutely. But I just could not get past the whole 'woe is me, I'll never be beautiful again and no boy will ever love me' spiel she had going on. I could understand that being part of her attitude, but with everything happening, that is all Mia thinks. In comparison, Zac is lovely, with a positive outlook and real strength. Even when he's depressed and practically given up, there's heart to Zac. That's just not the case with Mia. I did enjoy Zac and Mia's relationship though, and could see how it helped Mia to be a better, stronger person. I'd appreciate anything to help me like Mia more. Unfortunately, as Mia narrates half the novel, it does affect the overall enjoyment of this book.

Betts has written a witty and sensitive novel. If only I could love and relate to both characters, I might've rated Zac & Mia higher. 



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