Zac & Mia by A.J. Betts

Harper Trophy Canada | Paperback, 307 pages
Young Adult | Fiction
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

“I’m not scared, I’m more…pissed off. You’re supposed to do something in the world, like have kids or grow a forest. I haven’t done anything like that. What’s the point of me, other than leaving behind a messed-up family?” – Chapter 39, page 303

Teenagers are not supposed to think about their distant future; they’re only supposed to think about proms, pimples, and crushes as they navigate the mazes of a complicated high school life. Zac and Mia has it bad. Very, very bad. While Zac continues to battle leukaemia, Mia lost her leg to her own war with cancer. They have one common enemy, and very little of anything else to speak of. While Mia hides her sickness to the world, Zac had fully embraced the cards that he had been dealt. There is a great divide between the two, but would somehow find a common ground to stand on.

So much of Mia’s anger stems from the fact that she has no choice in her treatment as she is a minor. She was rebellious, cantankerous, and just plain…angry. Zac, however, has been a seasoned veteran with his fight. It also helps that his family is so supportive and loving during his battle; while Mia’s mom was at a loss as to how to help her own daughter.

I am a huge fan of Australian contemporary fiction, but I’m afraid this one didn’t quite meet my expectations. There was a certain factual manner of the characters that led to my detachment with whatever was happening at certain points in the story. This book should move readers, and not incite apathy. It is unfortunate that I couldn’t feel anything at all. I was also unable to sympathize with Mia, as her hatred for the world became the focal point of her characterization. She pushed people away, instead of basking in the glow of their love. I guess you can say she didn’t know how to feel; she didn’t know how to react.

Zac on the other hand, is a loveable, admirable character. There was nothing he wanted more than to rid of his disease, but as leukaemia is the type of cancer that comes back incessantly, his fight was never-ending. Zac’s positivity, however, never wavered.

There is one staunch lesson you can learn from this book: the value of friendship. It’s finding the greatest person who, no matter the distance, will always have you in their thoughts. The one person who will continue to care for you regardless of how badly you treated them. Zac is that person for Mia. Over all, it is a sweet story about a couple of people who found something in each other despite their differences. It is about learning to accept things as they come and living the best of the situation as it presents itself. I really wish I’d love this more than I did, but in the end, the story just lack that emotional impact expected from such a topic.


  • starryeyedjen29

    I only discovered this book today on someone else’s WoW, but I must have it now. I’m kind of scared about the influx of “cancer” books recently, at least on my own TBR, lol, but I still think this one sounds pretty good.

    • This was surprisingly not that of a emotional-heavy “sick-lit”, but others might still be moved with the characters’ stories. I wasn’t though, and that’s my problem. Thanks for stopping by, Jen. 🙂

  • I’ve been nervous about this one because I liked TFiOS so much. I’ve been waiting to read some reviews. Thanks for weighing in and giving your honest opinion!
    Jen @ YA Romantics

    • It definitely wasn’t nearly as good as TFioS in my opinion, but you might have a better reading experience with this than mine. Thanks for stopping by, Jen. 🙂

  • I love reading reviews of books I’ve read by people who have such a different reaction to me. I personally really enjoyed this book and preferred it to The Fault in Our Stars because I found it a much more realistic portrayal. But I enjoyed your review, Joy because having read the book I can completely understand why you felt how you did. Great review 🙂

    • Thanks, Kate. I just wished I wasn’t as apathetic with this book.

  • Aww Joy, sorry to hear that this one didn’t really work for you. Cancer stories seem to be very hit and miss, but from the sounds of it, Zac and Mia’s stories seem to be a stark contradiction to one another on this parallel timeline. As for all sad novels, I think you have to be in the right mindset to really absorb the emotions. Thanks for a wonderful review xx

    • Absolutely agree with you, Joy. I guess the opposite is my problem with this book. It did not incite any kind of emotions.

  • I’ve read quite a few raging reviews of this novel, but I kept hesitating to pick it up because I’m not a fan of cancer novels. I don’t think this will be for me, but thanks for such a well-balanced and helpful review! 🙂

    • I wish I’d read those reviews first before I bought this book. It was a disappointment and a half. Thanks, Keertana. 🙂

  • This one kind of sound like The Fault In Our Stars but not as well done.
    Sorry this one disappointed.

    • It was what sold me to the book to begin with, but sadly, it was a very poor imitation. I wish the marketing machine didn’t try to sell this book by riding shotgun on TFioS, because you’re bound for disappointment if you think it’s even close to TFioS.

  • Aw. This do sound like a cute book, kind of. Hih. I’m glad you kind of liked it 🙂 But sorry you didn’t love it. Sigh. Amazing review Joy. <3 I can't decide if it is for me or not. Hmph. Maybe if you had loved it more, lol 🙂

    • It was disappointing, especially for an Aussie author. I don’t know…I’m a little spoiled by the other awesome Aussies, I supposed. 🙂

  • you’re right it sould be an intense book, we expect that in fact so it’s sad that the author didn’t manage that I think. I confess that sometimes that when the character is angry at everything it’s difficult to really relate… I think I’ll pass, I’m not sure it’s for me. Thanks for your review though.

    • It’s such a shame; this book could’ve been so good. It had potentials, sure; sadly, it didn’t deliver.