Zac and Mia by A.J. Betts
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.
Publishes in US: Sep 2, 2014
Genre: YA contemp
Source: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt via Edelweiss
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I wanted to read Zac and Mia because I am drawn to stories about sick kids. I blame Lurlene McDaniel because she is one of the first authors who wrote about something like that I picked up and it totally made me emotional and I loved every second. Now, that has opened the door for me picking up all kinds of different novels dealing with illnesses and kids facing hard times, and I still fall for the emotional as well as the strength and hope in the kids even if they are facing down death or situations they should never have to.
It starts with Zac's point of view, and you could tell that he knew the routine of being in the hospital. He knew the welcome speech, and could anticipate the questions his mom would ask him. Questions that moms usually don't get away with asking teenage boys, but he has cancer and is post bone marrow transplant. He keeps his sense of humor though, and tries to stay positive. Most of all I like him even more because he humors his mom, and he plays games with her since their family is further away and she sticks by his side. I love that added family element and you can tell that his mom cares a lot for him, and tries to be hip and do things he would want like asking to play CUD (should be CoD--Call of Duty) something that I think she would normally never get into or enjoy.
His mom is also the unofficial social coordinator. She will have tea (its australian) with other spouses or parents and be an ear to talk about what they're going through, and also I think to give her an outlet to talk with other adults. It functions also to let us know what is going on outside Zac's room since he can't leave for awhile because of his treatment.
There is a major shift about halfway through, we start getting Mia's point of view and Zac is finally released. It is amazing to see how their friendship grows... From the taps and knocks to facebook to real life. How much they need each other, and help each other through the really dark time. While there is some chemistry between the two, I like the predominant focus being on healing and figuring how to deal with the hand that life has dealt them.
I loved getting to know Zac's family. The dynamics there are even better once he is released. They live on an olive farm, where people come to pick them, and they also have all the barnyard animals for people to pet, and it falls on the family to take care of the farm, but you can tell they love it and want their hands to be in dirt or on fur somehow or another. His older sister also stole my heart. She lived in a seperate house and was able to help Zac at a time his mom wouldn't have understood. She is so understanding and hip, and wants the best for Zac and also able to help and encourage him.
While there are the light things, especially Zac's fascination with Emma Watson (Hermione from Harry Potter). He was very focused on statistics on death and cancer... survival rates, remission and relapse percentages, and also to some extent numbers about other kind of death. There is also talk of losing hair, bowel movements, and puke. It never really gets too graphic but there are some darker themes that we get via Zac.
Oh and yes, some compare to Fault in Our Stars... Its two kids with cancer, a boy and a girl. Mia has the osteosarcoma, and there is some sarcasm. But. There were cancer books about teens before TFiOS and will be after as well. A lot of cancer books have certain themes in common, but so do books about vampires. The author's style of writing, and the character journeys and personalities are what makes books different.
One thing that kept things light was the sarcasm and Zac's sense of humor. I really like him and how real he was... But at the same time while he didn't sugarcoat things, he also was able to laugh at himself.
The setting was also unique. We are in australia with Zac and Mia, and his farm with the joeys (roos). There was some slang that I wasn't used to and a few that I didn't know what it meant, but it really didn't effect my enjoyment.
I liked the ending and also seeing the role reversal of sorts. They had both learned so much from cancer, from their family, even though Mia pushes hers away and is angry at some of the choices. It ended on a hopeful note but for the type of novel, it was perfect and not too over the top or unrealistic, but enough for me to be satisfied.
My question to you, my lovely readers:
Have you ever formed a friendship by knocks, flashlights in windows, talking over the fence, that sort of clandestine novelesque way?