Title: Zac & Mia
Author: A. J. Betts
Review: The opening the Zac & Mia was great, we meet Zac who has leukemia and is recovering after a bone marrow transplant when a girl close to his age is moved into the room next door. Initially Zac doesn’t like her music being loud but he realises she does this because she is lonely, as she fights with her visitors all the time. The premise of this novel reminded me a lot of The Fault in our Stars which I loved. The novel is told in a dual perspective split between Zac and Mia.
As we approach the ¼ mark in the novel we see Zac and Mia become friends due to their mutual circumstances. We see some key differences between the main characters; Zac has accepted the fact he has cancer and takes comfort in the survival statistics and medication success rates while Mia hasn’t told anyone she has cancer making her feel as isolated as Zac is. We also see the parental relationships between the two teenagers are polar opposites as well. I loved the depiction of cancer and cancer treatments in this novel as they are very realistic. The only other cancer novels I have read are The Fault in Our Stars and Me, Earl and the Dying Girl but these focus more on relationships and friendships that cancer patients have rather than the cancer itself. For example in the Fault in Our Stars Hazel and Gus’ cancer are really put on the back burner until it becomes relevant to the plot like Hazel not being able to travel to Amsterdam and Gus’ subsequent death but aren’t really explained or gone into, whereas this novel makes the treatment of the different patients essentially to the plot and to the characters’ overall development.
As we cross the ¼ mark in the novel we see Zac observe Mia’s descent, she can’t accept the things that come with cancer like surgery and hair loss and practically screams for a second opinion which she doesn’t get. Like most teenage girls she is looking forward to her formal and refuses to go looking like a cancer patient because most of her friends don’t know and she wants to keep it that way although Zac knows it will be impossible for her to keep it secret. We then jump forward fourteen weeks and Zac has been released from the hospital, he is trying to get his life back to normal but people are treating him differently because of the cancer. I loved the family dynamics in Zac’s life, he has both parents and older sibling; Bec who is about to become a mother so his life is quite consistent. We are also finally introduced to Mia’s perspective as we have spent a third of the novel just getting to know Zac. We see Zac settling back into school and his old life while Mia is running away from her friends who don’t understand, her boyfriend who isn’t attracted to her anymore and her horrid mother. We see Mia board a bus a pays for a ticket as far away from her life as she can get and while Zac thinks of her often he can’t get hold of her.
As we approach the half way mark in the novel we see Mia running away with a small amount of money and not much else. She ends up on Zac’s farm with the other tourists and because of the bus schedule she has to stay in a hostel but because there are only top bunks she ends up breaking into Zac’s house. When Zac learns she is running away he tells Bec who practically hides Mia in her house. For several days Mia is quiet and no one sees her worrying Zac to no end but when she finally reappeared Zac is relieved. I felt that this relationship was a little toxic because Mia is angry and desperate and Zac is the kind of person who would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it and I have a feeling that Mia may end up using Zac but as of right now she is staying put. One thing that did upset me a little was the fact she lies to Bec about her ankle which Zac knows it’s cancer but she doesn’t say anything she just retreats inside herself shutting everyone else out.
As we cross the half way mark in the novel we see Mia just not coping with losing her foot and despite having some feelings for Zac she can’t get over the fact that she isn’t pretty anymore despite Zac repeatedly telling her she is. After spending some time with Zac and his family Mia is beginning to feel restless and wants to move on as soon as she can but Zac seems to be grounding her there. While I liked both Mia and Zac as characters I felt that Mia and Zac should have had a few more emotional scenes by now because Zac is the only person Mia trusts and therefore she should be able to talk to him about everything that is going on in her life right now. After Cam’s death Zac decides to take Mia to Perth not just for the funeral but to go home as well, although we see through Mia’s eyes that she is contemplating killing herself because she just can’t accept who is now compared to who she was. I felt so sorry for Mia because she is so broken and she wants someone to fix her, someone like Zac but she doesn’t want to let anyone in either and its slowly eating away at her.
As we approach the ¾ mark in the novel Mia returns home and practically severs all ties to Zac although she misses him and wants to talk to him. After 3 months she sends him a postcard resulting in a brief correspondence but nothing like when they were actually together. In this part of the novel the story is told from solely Mia’s perspective like the first part was Zac’s and the middle was a mixed perspective. As Mia begins to realise there is a real life beyond her surgery she begins trying to mend her relationship with Zac. She soon learns he has been lying to her about travelling and he’s actually been really sick and the second she learns the truth she along with her mom pack their bags and head for Zac because he’s the one person who truly helped Mia and she is determined to return the favour.
As we cross into the final section of the novel we see Mia and Zac fill the holes in each other and find something neither thought they would have. Although Zac’s diagnosis doesn’t look good with Mia’s help and support he fights and he helps her feel beautiful and normal again. Overall, I found Zac and Mia to be a far better representation of cancer and the struggles cancer patients face that the Fault in Our Stars. If you are looking for a book that deals with characters I highly recommend this book, it is a quick read only taking me a few hours to completely devour it. The characters and relationships are so realistic and beautifully written. An amazing read and truly deserves its rating.
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