Winner, The Text Prize for Young Adult and Children’s Writing, 2012
The last person Zac expects in the room next door is a girl like Mia, angry and feisty with questionable taste in music. In the real world, he wouldn't - couldn't - be friends with her. In hospital different rules apply, and what begins as a knock on the wall leads to a note - then a friendship neither of them sees coming.
You need courage to be in hospital; different courage to be back in the real world. In one of these worlds Zac needs Mia. And in the other Mia needs Zac. Or maybe they both need each other, always.
About the Author
A. J. Betts is an author, teacher, speaker and cyclist. Zac & Mia, the winner of the Text Prize for Young Adult and Children’s Writing, is her third novel for young adults. Her others are ShutterSpeed and Wavelength. She lives in Perth, and writes when she’s not pedalling.
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Zac and Mia is a book told by the perspectives of two very different teenagers. Zac is a seventeen year old active farm boy suffering myeloid leukaemia and now stuck in confinement after a bone marrow transplant. With only his supportive (yet at times a little overbearing) mother, nurses and the Internet for company, Zac is intrigued by the new admission to the hospital room next to his. Mia isn't quite as okay with her diagnosis as Zac. She's angry and in denial. Her prognosis is the best of anyone in the ward but all she can see how the cancer in her leg is taking her former life away from her.
I liked how Betts broke up this book - the first part is entirely told from Zac's point of view, the last solely Mia, and the middle section alternating perspectives per chapter. The way it was told kept me rather anxiously reading on to make sure the characters were okay. Zac is someone I instantly enjoyed reading about. He's smart and funny - his bone marrow's alter ego, Helga! - but also incredibly logical. His fixation with maths and statistics showed that he knew his odds but was trying to be the one who beat them. Mia was harder to like - she's pricky and snarky but from reading her side of things you can see that it's just a cover for how scared she is. The relationship between them was a joy to read. They are unlikely friends but their shared experiences give them a bond that few can possibly understand. I love the interactions between them - from Mia obnoxiously blasting Lady Gaga to Zac's knowledge of the ridiculous ways people have died. This book despite the serious nature of cancer did leave me grinning at times.
Their personal situations as well as their medical conditions contrasted nicely - Zac with the super supportive friends and family who all knew the ins and outs of what he was facing opposed to Mia who didn't even let her friends know. Zac considered Mia to be the luckiest person on the ward but she was the one acting as if she was the only person facing a death sentence. Zac has the family who are all there for each other and there maybe teasing on the farm but when it comes down to it they would do anything for one another. Mia isn't quite so lucky as her mother was a teenager when she had her and neither one seems to know how they should treat the other. These differences contrasted nicely and really showed off how differently people behave when facing a similar beast.
I've seen people compare Zac and Mia to John Green's The Fault in Our Stars - with both books dealing with teens and cancer but for me they both told very different stories. Zac and Mia showed off the darker side - with everything from hair loss to bowel movements being discussed. I liked that Betts showed the ugly side of things as it made it all a little more realistic for me. It felt well researched from both a medical standpoint as well as the personal side of cancer.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. It's thoughtful and heartbreaking yet sincere and at times amusing. I highly recommend it.
'Zac and Mia are unforgettable-they put hooks into my heart that are still there. Be warned: if you pick up this book, you won't want to put it down.' -- Fiona Wood 'Warm and uplifting.' Weekend Australian 'There is a great sense of warmth and humour in this story, which will appeal to both YA and adult readers...A stand-out novel for 2013.' Australian Books and Publishing 'Above average in this burgeoning subgenre; it's the healing powers of friendship, love and family that make this funny-yet-philosophical tale of brutal teen illness stand out.' Kirkus 'Betts portrays cancer as hard, scary, and isolating, but beatable-or at least bearable-if one isn't facing it alone, and her depiction of a boy trying to hold onto normal life and a girl realizing she can't keep hers from changing has power.' Publishers Weekly 'Zac & Mia holds its own as a smart, well-crafted story about the importance of friendship and feeling understood.' starred review School Library Journal 'I think you have to be brave to write a book like this. To write it without overt, condescending sympathy. And to be brave enough to write the moments that are funny, or grotty, or filled with rage, alongside those that are brave and heroic. It's a book that is well deserving of a prize, and is likely to win many more.' -- First Impressions (Bec Kavanagh) 'For communicating the day-to-day mundane madness of cancer, Betts deserves high praise...Another triumph for the Text Prize, A. J. Betts is in good company and Zac and Mia is another great read.' -- ALPHA Reader (Danielle Binks) '[Zac & Mia] is an outstanding novel about the stuff of life that really matters. There will be laughter, there will be tears, some of which will be for the truly amazing Zac and Mia and all their real life counterparts. Most of all there will be joy. You will not want to put this book down once you start to read it.' -- The Hoopla 'Zac & Mia by A.J. Betts is a beautifully written story from dual perspectives...A warm-hearted story and two unforgettable characters.' Hypable 'I found Zac & Mia to be a compelling story with characters that I truly cared about by the end of the novel...confronting and heartbreaking at times, but it is also comforting and moving, a beautifully written portrait of our basic human need to connect. It's a story that I'm glad I had the opportunity to read and one that I'm sure will linger with me for some time.' Kids Book Review 'The strength of Betts novel is how well she gets inside her character's head...her characters felt real -- her dialogue is spot-on, the supporting characters truly shine in their own ways, and Zac and Mia's perspectives ring unique and true. Everything feels raw and real, completely grounded.' Inkcrush 'The writing was close to perfect. A. J. Betts effortlessly created a story, while daringly similar to John Green's, still equally fascinating and touching.' YA Midnight Reads 'If you are after a book filled with hope and heart I recommend Zac & Mia.' Obsession with Books 'A.J.Betts has painted Zac and Mia with strong colours. I was drawn into their lives. I felt their anger, injustice and pain. I empathised with both families. I admired the courage, the honesty and the sense of hope. But I also laughed at the humour and cheered for the successes. These two characters will stay in my heart.' -- Buzz Words 'Funny, graceful and full of heart. You can whip through it in a day or two and it feels like you've lived a whole life.' -- Brooke Davis Australian Women's Weekly 'Zac and Mia is billed as a young adult title, but this old adult read AJ Bett's debut novel in one sitting.' -- Clare Wright, Best Books of the Year Weekend Australian 'It is a deeply affecting (but never sentimental), dramatic and sparklingly told story, with universal interest and appeal. Betts' ability to capture and sustain the voices of these two fragile teenagers is remarkable as is her facility with snappy, authentic, convincing dialogue.' Australian Book Review
For Ages: 11+ years old
Number Of Pages: 320
Published: 24th July 2013
Publisher: Text Publishing Co
Country of Publication: AU
Dimensions (cm): 19.8 x 12.7 x 2.4
Weight (kg): 0.3