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.


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