This book will not follow my usual review format because this one is a special case.
Have you ever wanted to read a book so badly… and be devastatingly disappointed? Well, it just happened to me. And I am one sad fangirl.
Title: Zac and Mia
Author: A. J. Betts
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Realistic Fiction
Date Published: 24th of July 2013
Publisher: Text Publishing
Source: Paperback, bought from Fully Booked
The Fault in Our Stars meets Eleanor and Park in this tough and tender young adult novel that’s a lot about love (and a little about cancer).
“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.
There was something off. Flying through the book felt like a breeze, but it was a hot steam kind of breeze. The book has the fair share of pros and cons, which I will gladly lay down.
Pros: It discussed a heavy topic in a lighter mood. Hard-hitting illnesses such as cancer is messy to deal with, if not done properly. Yet this book managed to deliver it in a manner where it’s targeted audience could understand it, and it still leaves room for further research. The writing was made for young adults to learn something, and it is commendable that the author has shed more light unto such topic.
Cons: There is too much angst. This comes in the form of Mia, one of the main characters. Depending on the reader, her attitude will probably be on a hit or miss basis. There was so much hate that I could not stand while reading. It pains me to say that the anger is normal, but it can be frustrating.
Pros: The family that sticks together. This comes in the form of Zac’s family (and Mia’s, in the latter part). His family is downright supportive, especially his mom and his sister. The story has other characters who talk about the realities of the world, and it built up this “Everything is okay.” environment.
Cons: The unnecessary romance. It can be said that Zac and Mia are polar opposites, but the story could have centered more on a friendship aspect. I admit that I smiled when they had a cheesy moment. Yet it feels like something was off. One minute, it was bursting rage. Then in the next one, they say uplifting things sounds cute. But then you cut to Mia, who will suddenly burst your bubble. Zac is too nice, and he is a devoted friend. Mia on the other hand, is just angry.
Pros: The uplifting POV. This comes in the form of Zac. You get that he is having a bad time, as he weighs the chances. He is a character that will uplift and question at the same time, similar to that of Craig from It’s Kind of A Funny Story. The book started in his perspective, and I thought that it was going pretty well until;
Cons: The “I hate everything” POV. This comes in the form of Mia. Despite the message that Mia needs to learn how to love herself, it was painful to read rage. It went downhill from there.
Zac and Mia is a beautiful book full of aspiring thoughts, a cast of characters that find themselves, and a beautiful setting. I am probably at fault for raising my bar too high because despite the beauty of the prose, it felt flat for me. It was an easy read, and it is digestible for such a heavy topic. But if I had to drag myself to finish it then sadly, this book is not for me.
(Know more about my rating system here.)
AJ Betts is an Australian author, speaker, teacher and cyclist. ZAC & MIA, her third novel for teenagers, won the 2012 Text Prize, the 2014 SCBWI Crystal Kite Award, and the 2014 Ethel Turner prize for young adults at the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards. Inspired by her work in a children’s hospital, ZAC & MIA is available in 14 countries. AJ’s other novels are WAVELENGTH and SHUTTERSPEED (both with Fremantle Press). She’s lived in Perth since 2004.
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