Title: Zac and Mia
Author: A.J. Betts
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: September 2, 2014
I found this one at Barnes and Noble last week. It’s a new release in the US, although it’s been out in Australia since 2013. I started reading it while sipping on my mocha frappuccino at the B&N Starbucks and ended up having to buy the book since I’d made it through all but the last 20 pages before I had to leave. Reading Zac and Mia was an emotionally turbulent experience and I already recommended it to at least four of my students.
A brief summary from the publisher’s website:
Seventeen-year-old Zac Meier is enduring 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.
The most obvious comparison is to say, “Well, it’s like The Fault in Our Stars! It’s not about cancer, but about two kids with cancer! Who fall in love!” Yeah, it’s a bit different than TFIOS. Don’t get me wrong, I loved that book, but to compare Zac and Mia to it is like comparing Ronald Weasley to Holden Caulfield just because they both have siblings.
I think what Zac and Mia does, really, is take two characters and show how their lives cross, and how that crossing affects both of them in the long run. The book’s structure is fabulously intricate. The first section, “Zac,” is told mostly through Zac’s point of view. The end, “Mia,” is mostly Mia’s. And the middle, “and,” switches between both perspectives and is what really brings the book to life.
There were some aspects of Zac that I loved and parts of his personality that drove me crazy. I immediately disliked Mia but grew to empathize with her once we got some of her perspective. These characters that A.J. Betts creates are comprehensive and 100% believable, which brings a sense of reality to their situation in the book.
What I absolutely adored was that there was no forced romance. You get hints of it throughout, of course, so if you’re someone who only reads romance, you still won’t be disappointed. But the book was mostly about friendship, and support, and how to help someone else when you can hardly help yourself. I was captivated by Mia and Zac’s story, and I’m sure that most readers will feel the same.
5 out of 5 stars.