Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Review: Zac and Mia by A. J. Betts

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.

Some people may read the blurb and think that it's a book in the mold of The Fault in our Stars or A Walk to Remember, but it's not like that.

In Zac and Mia, Zaac is recovering from a bone marrow transplant when a new girl moves into the room next to his. He eventually befriends the girl whose name is Mia. Unlike Zac, Mia doesn't have a good handle on her diagnosis yet and freaks out when things don't go as expected. When they go back to the outside world, it's hard for them to feel normal again and eventually they rely on each other to get through their problems.

Despite the fact that the protagonists are both cancer patients and they are each other's love interests, this book is not a clone or derivative of The Fault in Our Stars.

The book is divided into three parts. The first part is narrated by Zac, the second part alternated between the two, and the third part is told by Mia. This worked out well since Zac is a nice, relatively mature character and Mia was rather unlikable at first.

Zac has a good head on his shoulders, but he's not a robot. He starts the book pretty much at the acceptance stage already, but when he leaves the hospital, it becomes clear that being normal again isn't going to be easy, and his emotions are all perfectly rational.

Mia, on the other hand, was a shallow, selfish, scared little brat. Thankfully, once her point-of-view was introduced, she started showing some growth. Otherwise, I would have hated this book.

The story itself was more about Zac and Mia's cancer journey and their personal growth than their romance. I appreciated that since the more important story was told. It felt like an authentic portrayal of cancer patients and I think kids and teens with cancer, or any life-threatening illness or disability can relate to Zac and Mia's feelings and reactions.

Thanks to NetGalley and HMH Books for Young Readers for the e-ARC.


  1. The characters are realistic.
  2. The focus is on the characters' journey and growth.
  3. There are some funny lines here. 


  1. Mia is not a pleasant character in the beginning. 


  1. You like books set in Australia.
  2. You like books wherein the characters' journey is the focus.
  3. You like books with realistic characters. 




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